How can you be successful if you haven’t defined what success is? Every trader needs to answer this question for themselves, and then they need to figure out from there what to do to attain that success. We recommend a one-year goal to get started, but with regular checkpoint along the way to make sure that you’re staying on course.This way, you can make adjustments, both with your goal and with your own trading strategies.

The main point of creating a goal is to keep you focused. While we are focusing on the short term—most trades take place at one hour or less before the expiration time—having a long term goal helps you to better focus on what you’re doing and not fall prey to the ups and downs that are inevitable when it comes to short term trading. You should also put your goal down in writing. Save it as a file on your computer, write it down on a whiteboard above your desk, or wherever else it will stay prominent and in your mind. When your goal is clear and centered with everything you do, the ups and downs are smoothed over and your forward progress is more easily measured.

Your goal should be realistic. If you deposit $1,000 into your broker, it’s not realistic to expect to turn that into $50,000 in a month. If you set unrealistic goals, you are setting yourself up for failure. Your goal should also be a little tough to reach. If the goal is too easy, then there’s little to keep you motivated and pushing forward to get better. Your goal, finally, should be attainable. You should find a middle ground, a place where it is a challenge to get, but not so hard that you give up a few weeks into it.

When it comes to options, your level of experience should dictate your goal. It’s not unrealistic for a decent trader to double their money in a year. If you open an account, put $1,000 into it, and in a month you’ve only made $50, don’t give up, though. Remember that as your account grows or shrinks, you should make changes to your risked amount. Also remember that even the best traders in the world go through losing streaks. These are all normal.

This is why we like the one-year timeframe for your goal with the mini checkpoints. Ups and downs are normal; it’s where you are over the long term that should drive your short term trading. Whether or not you want to take any bonus cash into your goal is up to you. If you’re given a 100 percent bonus when you deposit $1,000 so that your account is now $2,000, we tend to lean toward not counting your bonus cash until you’ve unlocked it and it could be withdrawn without problem. You can use that money to trade with, but it’s not really yours until it’s unlocked. Use your own judgment here, of course.

The important thing about having a goal is that you can always adjust and readjust. Don’t do this too soon, but also realize that if your goal is to create a 250 percent profit and you find yourself only on pace for 150 percent with one week to go, this is still quite admirable. When your timeframe is up, you can always come up with a new goal based upon the new money you’ve earned and the new skills that you’ve developed as a trader over that period. This will keep you pushing for new heights, and it will keep you on pace to get there more realistically.