If I had only ________ I would _______.

If I had only held, I would have made a fortune. If I had only sold when I planned to, I would have made money instead of losing it. If I had only taken that job, I would be rich by now.

This thinking is the enemy of success, especially as a trader.

Nobody has a crystal ball. Nobody can see the future. We all “take profit too early” and stop out before price reverses. Comparing your results to a theoretical idea of what could have been impedes progress and leaves you existing in an emotional limbo, handicapped by the fear of another wrong decision or living in a past that can’t be altered.

You have NO IDEA WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED if you had made a different decision in life.

It happens. No use crying over spilt milk. The faster you get over your “mistake,” the faster you can move on in a proper mindset and make a better decision in the future.

People have a natural tendency to compare their results to the best possible situation, after the fact. This is a useless and damaging exercise, because it implies that perfection is the only expected and acceptable result.

I have talked to traders who are up many multiples on their portfolio but down a few percent from their all time high. They almost always complain that they are “down,” because they are comparing their performance to the best possible outcome. Is this you? It has certainly been me.

That’s not how this works.

Be honest with yourself. If you could do it all over again, would you really have sold at the exact top and rebought at the exact bottom? Just because the possibility of perfection existed does not mean that you would have actually executed. In fact, there’s almost no way that you would have timed everything perfectly.

Comparing your outcome to the best possible scenario in hindsight makes no sense, but we all do It. It’s a deeply engrained psychological phenomenon.

As traders and investors, we can never expect a straight line to the moon. There are always peaks and valleys, moments when we are scared and think the party is over, and times when we believe that the festival will never end. That’s why every chart looks the way that it does, even in an uptrend – because that chart is just a visualization of human emotion and behavior.

This is why you should be an investor first, check your portfolio less, and ride the slow wave to inevitable long term success.

You are not perfect. I am not perfect. You have no idea what will happen after you execute or exit a trade or investment. Be content with your gains, learn from your mistakes and move on with a clear head.