Improving Performance by Optimising Your Time Perspective


Part of my pre-session routine involves a quick review of my Motivation Journal.

The Motivation Journal is simply a folder containing various pieces of text or image material which I find sufficiently motivating; the aim being to ensure I face each trading session with focus and commitment and, most importantly, confidence.

The YTC Price Action Trader discusses the sections and contents of my journal in Chapter 10. While the content itself changes from time to time, I've been consistent in following that same format for the last six or so years.

However, last weekend I came across a video which I found fascinating, and which has led me to consider changing the format of my Motivation Journal.

It's a TED Talk by Psychologist Philip Zimbardo who you might know from the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment.

The topic of this talk is "The Psychology of Time"

Here's the video. Please watch it. It only takes seven minutes.


If the video does not show here, try these alternate links: TED Talk or YouTube

If you have time (pun intended) there is a link at the bottom of this article to a longer video presentation showing a lot more detail. Highly recommended! If not… the 7 minute video shown here will be sufficient to cover the basics.

Prof. Zimbardo suggests that the optimal profile for balancing time perspective is as follows:

  • Past-Positive => High
  • Future-Positive => Moderately High
  • Present-Hedonism => Moderate

Nothing surprising here in that it's all overly biased towards the positive side.

This is a great way to view life.

But I think it also has application in daytrading, in providing structure to our Motivation Journal and ensuring it addresses all three time perspectives.

The benefits of our pre-trading routine including a motivation session based upon the optimal profile, as listed above, should be:

  • A greater likelihood of commencing the trading session with a positive and focused mindset.
  • And a subsequent increase in likelihood of quality performance.

So here's how we could structure our journals:

Section 1 – Past-Positive

Aim: To give you roots. To connect to your identity and family. To be grounded.

Prof. Zimbardo, in the longer video linked to at the end of this article, provides a list of emotions, motives and actions associated with each of the positive time perspectives. For Past-Positive it includes the following: happy, self-esteem, rituals, patriotism, nostalgia, gratitude, stability, wisdom, identity.

Contents within the Past-Positive section would then address any of these areas which you deem as relevant to your circumstances.


  • A photo collage or list of those people from your past, or from history, who have been instrumental in shaping your values and beliefs and in creating the person you have become.
  • Recognition for those who have provided you with the foundation that allows you to trade today – the knowledge, the skills, the self-belief.
  • Gratitude and love towards those who provide support in your life and a sense of belonging – family and close friends.
  • A special thanks to those who believe in you, who encourage you day after day as you travel this journey in becoming a trader.
  • Reference to any time, place or event in your life that offers pleasant and happy memories.
  • Reminders of past successes – academic, sporting, artistic, or any other category you feel appropriate.
  • Printouts of trading success – particularly good trade sequences, rising equity curves, or examples of a successful fight back from drawdown.
  • And if no trading success yet – list areas of growth and development in your trading journey. What are you better at now than you were twelve months ago?
  • I'm sure there are many other ideas that I've missed. Feel free to add additional Past-Positive ideas in the comment section of this article. Let's help each other out!


Section 2 – Future-Positive

Aim: To give you wings. To soar to new destinations and challenges.

Keywords associated with the Future-Positive time perspective included the following: achievement, health focus, contingency planning, probability thinking, self-efficacy, cost-benefit analysis, expectancies, hope.

The Future-Positive section of your journal should be structured to address any of these areas which may be applicable to your trading business.


  • What does trading success mean to you? Start here with the material aspects of success. How do you define success? Outline it here. And paste in some pictures of expensive cars, houses and holiday locations. You know you want to!
  • And now let's look beyond just the financial and material benefits. Let's make it more personal and real. What will it mean to you and your loved ones when you achieve the levels of success you desire?
  • Visualise achievement of the above levels of success. How does that make you feel. Write down these feelings and turn them into affirmations, as if they were already true.
  • Again… what have I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Section 3 – Present-Positive   (yeah… I've changed the name slightly! It might just be me, but the word hedonism seems to contain some negative baggage! Having said that though, in the longer video Prof. Zimbardo does say that our focus on the Present-Hedonism time perspective should be selective and self-rewarding, not impulsive.)

Aim: To give you energy. To ignite your passion for trading and being in the moment.

I prefer to finish with the present, rather than the future, as it feels to me that a present-positive perspective is more relevant to the actual hands-on job of daytrading which is shortly about to commence. Feel free to adjust the order however you wish!

Keywords associated with Present-Positive were: affiliation, joy, pleasure, sensuality, sexuality, energy / activity, excitement, improvisation.

The Present-Positive section of our journal should be structured to address any of these areas which may be applicable to our trading business.


  • Affirmations will really come into their own in this section. I'd start with something expressing gratitude for the opportunity to trade today.
  • And let's continue with more affirmations – any areas of particular interest – acceptance, confidence, achievement, happiness or any other category that you wish. Keep them present focused.
  • Any spiritual affirmations that may be applicable to your beliefs and lifestyle.
  • A reminder to review your current process goals, or any current areas of focus which need regular reinforcement and reminders. Then feel the satisfaction that comes from proper preparation and planning!
  • A reminder that my job today is not to find winning trades, but rather to manage risk and opportunity such that I profit over a longer series of trades.
  • Pause… take a few slow breaths, deep into your belly. Feel alive!
  • Pause… look around the room and just take in how awesome it feels to live in this time and this place and be afforded this opportunity.
  • Now it's time to trade! Let's go!
  • Other ideas? Let me know in the comments section of the article!  πŸ™‚


So now it's your turn!

If you don't currently have a motivation journal, set one up RIGHT NOW using these three time perspectives – Past-Positive, Future-Positive, Present-Positive.

And let me know how it goes!  πŸ™‚

Happy trading,

Lance Beggs

PS. For those interested in longer presentations on this topic, and how different time perspectives shape both personal and cultural behaviour, see the following videos:

For a book version, "The Time Paradox" by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

Also see here to take some surveys to identify your score in the different time perspectives:

  • My results seem to be about right. Highly future focused. Not enough present hedonism. And I have some serious past personal issues that I still need to resolve. Talk about making me face some truths that I've been avoiding!  πŸ™‚


Written by

YourTradingCoach - Admin

11 Comments to “Improving Performance by Optimising Your Time Perspective”

  1. Marcus says:

    I really like this post the videos were quite interesting.

  2. krasimir says:

    I’m curious if there are consistent traders that are past or present oriented. πŸ™‚

    • Lance Beggs says:

      I think a good balance is essential going into the session. Present focus is probably key during the session. Of course that’s for a discretionary trader. Perhaps a systems trader needs a different balance???

      • krasimir says:

        Hi Lance,

        I need to clarify myself a bit. :)))

        My curiosity above is mainly related to how different personality types cope with the trading, and not so much to the focus we are achieving for peak performance. (Although, the focus for peak performance might be related to our personality type).

        We know that trading is skill acquiring activity, however, our personality type might lead to one or other direction of our path of development as traders.

        Back in the years I read a wonderful article by Brett Steenbarger (which I cannot find and refer here unfortunately), in which he said that there are certain personality types that might not be associated with consistent trading. For example, if impulsiveness and nervousness are part of one’s personality, they will be having hard time achieving consistency, unless they find a way to cope with that personality issues.

        Professor Zimbardo explanation of our individual perspective of time is nothing more than another way to categorize personality types. At least, this is how I comprehend his lecture in the video above.

        Having said that, I think it is not easy to change focus on time perspective on a dime. (Meaning to change a personality trait.) For example, I am highly future focused (4.31 – not surprised by the survey, though :D), which means that I love to plan, to structure, to visualize, to come up with new ideas, etc. and will be difficult to me to switch focus on past and look at the world through my past activity only.

        How might time perspective be related to trading?

        Well, let’s look at one of the trading principles you mention often in YTC articles and see how traders with different time perspectives (personality traits) might act on it.

        The trading principle is: An individual trade does not matter. We profit over e series of trades.

        Future-focused trader (a trait) – this principle well suits to hers personality. It is part of her. She not only comprehend the principle, but also internalize it in her trading.

        Present-focused trader (a trait) – he understands the principle on a logical level, however he finds hard time to implement it on his trading, because he only cares about the pleasure of current trading (being hedonistic) results. Maybe he prefers to gamble.

        Past-negative-focused trader (a trait) – it is difficult to grasp the principle by such a trader. He only sees a streaks of losing trades in his results and ignores the streaks of the winning trades. He is not convinced that this principle is true.

        Past-positive-focused trader (a trait) – she prefers exactness. She is a mechanical trader and big part of her trading day goes to research past statistical data. She exploits statistical edges with positive expectancy.

        Future-religious-focused trader (a trait) – (with all my respect to those people! I do not intend to offend or devalue their believes!) They might be thinking that their profitability depends on their faith and no series of trades are important here.

        Again, I do not mean to put labels to anyone and the above traits are just examples. They easily cannot be true. πŸ˜‰

        Now, back to your idea of building confidence and focus for achieving peak performance during pre-session using the time perspective.

        This is a wonderful idea! Everyone can build a routine around his time perspective personality.

        I am only a little bit concern about your focus on the present moment. Maybe I didn’t grasp your idea. Maybe you meant the present moment and the near future. It’s a period of time for which we create our expectations for the market behavior (our IF-THEN scenarios). So, our focus should be on that period of time.

        Regarding the confidence building process of looking at past and future images of success. This is a great idea!

        • Lance Beggs says:

          Thanks Krasimir,

          Yes, I completely misinterpreted your prior question and so was answering something completely unrelated. Dealing with this unrelated item first… I agree that focus in the actual act of trading should be a mix of present and near-future focus, as you suggest, with near-future focus relating to the expected duration of the current trade sequence. ie. AKA “mindfulness”.

          But then that’s unrelated to the wider issue of which personality profiles (as determined via the time perspective method) might be best suited to trading.

          My primary interest after my initial viewing of the video was in ensuring that the pre-session motivation routine addressed all three time perspectives (past, present & future) in a positive manner. This is based upon an assumption that positive is always preferable to negative when operating intra-session (I could be wrong). And it’s based upon my assumption that this “positive-focused” motivation session will help at least temporarily overcome of any underlying negativity within our personality profile (or at least reduce it’s negative impact).

          So I didn’t really address the issue of which personality profiles might be best suited to trading.

          I’ve not yet ordered Prof. Zimbardo’s book. It’s on my list… but unfortunately it’s a long list. Hopefully the book will allow me to explore and understand these ideas to a greater depth. At the moment it’s something I find interesting, but I’m not 100% certain of the best way to use this information.

          This question of which personality profile is best suited to trading is complicated as well by the fact that we aren’t fixed to one category but rather have a mix.

          Your thoughts on how a person dominant in one category can relate to one particular principle (series of trades) sound reasonable. I tend to agree with your thoughts there.

          But there is not one principle responsible for trading success. So what is optimal for one principle may hurt in others.

          I can’t answer your question as to which profile is best suited to trading.

          So how can we use this information?

          I guess the best option is to take the survey to get an indication of our personal mix, and then use that information when considering the challenges we personally face. Is our profile perhaps responsible in part for our current roadblocks? And will a work to “shift” our time perspective help me get beyond this roadblock? Or will acceptance of my personality suggest an alternate way to bypass the problem (eg. passive trade management may be better than active trade management for some profiles).

          That is, view our current challenges from the perspective of our t/p profile. Does it offer clues the way forward? Or are there trading methods better suited?

          I don’t know if there is much more we can do beyond that. Perhaps the book will tell me more?

          To address your question more directly, “I’m curious if there are consistent traders that are past or present oriented.”

          I’d have to answer, “YES”.

          My profile has me as high past negative (3.30 vs the optimal 2.1) and low past positive (2.56 vs optimal 3.67). So both “past” perspectives are sub-optimal. But I’m also at the same time showing an above optimal future perspective (4.0).

          Perhaps this mix has given me the ability to look forward to the long-term series nature of this game, while at the same time maintaining a strong awareness of risk (as a result of focus on the negative past experiences).

          Perhaps past-negative is not so bad, provided it’s balanced by a low present-fatalism and high future positive?

          I haven’t answered your question very well at all. Much more thought is required on this subject. πŸ™

          • krasimir says:

            Hi Lance,

            Thanks for the reply!

            I totally agree with you that it is too complicated to label which personality types are best suited for trading. This is a personal journey for each trader.

            Yes, it is about finding your niche – the best suitability between one’s personality and the trading strategy.

            My question was pointed to other YTC traders. I was curious how those traders fitted the YTC strategy to their personality types. I am far from the thought that the strategy is only suitable for one personality type, however, I also assume that there are YTC traders might have tweaked and fitted the strategy to their own personal needs.

            My curiosity was mainly driven by how different YTC traders cope with that.

            Sorry for being off-topic. πŸ˜‰

          • Lance Beggs says:


            No, it was definitely not off-topic. Great conversation. It confirmed for me that I need to look into this in more detail.


  3. Marcus says:

    I have noticed that some of my worst performance days can be chalked up to the days where my mind is past negative oriented like focusing on a recent ex for example. I find that under these conditions my mind isn’t focusing on the task at hand and as a result minor procedural/ analysis steps are overlooked which leads to losses. These losses add onto stress and negativity that is already there and the problem just compounds itself. Keep in mind this is on a demo account. If it were live the issue would magnify itself x10 for me. Because of this I now compare trading to boxing. Your opponent is the market, your coach is also the market if you’re willing to accept a lesson plan where the exam is given first and the lesson last. Every session is another tournament, every intra session break is like another round coming to an end. That comparison being made, I now make an attempt to mentally inject myself with positivity before every session, during any intra session break and even in between sessions regardless of past results good or bad. I do this by listening to motivational speakers and speeches found on YouTube. (Won’t post any names of speakers unless given permission). In my opinion stepping into the boxing ring or trading ring with negativity of any kind will lead to a bruised face/account.

  4. Marcus says:

    I have, I came across it around the time just before I first started reading your book. The link at the bottom of the article led me to some of the motivational videos I found later on. Now having read it again, I will say its much easier to appreciate the comparison. I recommend it to anyone who may have just gotten done with the book, I believe it’s a perfect wrap up.

Leave a Reply


Please prove you're a person: Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.