The mistake made by budding baseball players is that they swingfor the fences when a single will do. Their dreams of a home runoften lead to the embarrassment of a strike-out. Not only are theyred-faced, but the team effort loses momentum. This is the essenceof winning by not losing. What is true in baseball is true inlong-term investing.

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Related: Here's what's important in 401(k)education

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The first step to “Winning by not Losing” is to know what causeslosing. It’s a good idea to constantly remind retirement saversexactly how and when bad decisions occur (see “The Three Biggest Mistakes Retirement Savers MakeDuring Down Markets,” FiduciaryNews.com, August 2,2016).

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Related: 3 important concerns that thwartretirement saving

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But it goes beyond merely knowing what these mistakes are. Weneed to know why we are particularly vulnerable to committingthem.

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There are 147 “Delphic Maxims” said to have been inscribed atDelphi. Of these, the most famous is “Know Thyself.” This maximappears frequently in Greek literature. Socrates is known haveemployed it as a way of explaining why he really didn’t know asmuch as people claimed he knew. (For this self-deprecation,Apollo’s Oracle at Delphi proclaimed Socrates the wisest of allbecause, unlike other pretenders, he “neither knew anything norimagined” he did.) In other words, you can’t be smart untilyou admit you are dumb.

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Yes, it’s important that retirement savers learn from commonmistakes.

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It is more important for retirement savers to admit they arejust as capable of making those mistakes as the next guy.

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This is where a coach comes in. Recalling our baseball analogyabove, a good skipper will constantly remind hitters to moderatetheir batting strategy. Likewise, a good financial coach willconstantly remind retirement savers to moderate their emotionalreaction to market swings.

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We all know emotions represent the greatest source of baddecisions. Nothing drives emotions like a volatile market.

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Worse, alarmist media headlines create an environment thatperpetuates a feeding frenzy of unhelpful emotions. The second stepto “Winning by not Losing,” then, is to understand the emotionsthat push one towards making bad decisions. Fear (in fallingmarkets) and greed (in rising markets) stand out as the usualsuspects.

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Introspection helps us find our faults in an honest way. Oncewe’ve identified them, we can learn to diminish their influence onour behavior. Here we find one of the more significantmisapplications of research theory being practiced today.

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In the specific area of “risk intolerance,” the populartreatment is to address this affliction by both accepting it andmodify one’s investment portfolio so that it is sensitive to theretirement savers “risk intolerance.” There’s only one problem withthis remedy – it repeatedly flies in the face of reality.

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To achieve long-term success, most retirement savers will needto spend long periods investing in assets with greater priceswings. This volatility can be unnerving, especially for theretirement saver that lacks awareness of not just markettendencies, but himself.

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The temptation to change direction in the face of normal – butapparent “wild” – swings in the market may be too much for many.They need to recognize if they can’t discipline themselves theyneed to restrain themselves.

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Visiting the Greeks once more gives a lesson of how extremerestrain must sometimes be. Odysseus, on his way back to Ithaca andhis beloved Penelope, passed precariously close to the island ofthe Sirens. These creatures sang a captivating song no man couldignore and lured passing sailors who steered towards them to theirrocky deaths. Odysseus knew this. He also knew he, being a man,couldn’t resist the tempting songs.

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Nonetheless, he wanted to hear the beautiful music. Since heknew he didn’t have the discipline to avoid succumbing totemptation, he did the next best thing: He restrained himself. Hehad his sailors – whose ears were plugged with wax to prevent themfrom hearing the Sirens – tie him tightly to the mast. His shipsailed past the island of the Sirens without a hitch, and he got tohear their wonderful wails – and lived to tell about it.

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Whether retirement savers embrace self-discipline or restraint,it remains critical that they “know thyself” well enough to avoidthe rocky shoals of emotional reactions to short-term marketevents. As both Odysseus and baseball player know, this is the beststrategy to reach home safely.

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal FiduciaryNews.com and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christophercarosa/)and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ChrisCarosa).