This column was originally published on RealMoney on Jan. 2 at 10:27 a.m. EST. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers. For more information about subscribing to RealMoney, please click here.

New Year's Resolution: Become a more profitable trader.

Easier said than done.

Achieving sustained success in trading requires avoiding numerous pitfalls as much as it does seeking out and executing winning trades. In fact, most professional traders will tell you that it's not any specific trading methodologies that make them successful but rather the overall rules to which they adhere that keep them "in the game" long enough to achieve success.

Following are 10 of the more prevalent mistakes I believe traders make in trading stocks and other markets. This list is in no particular order of importance.

1. Failure to have a trading plan in place before a trade is executed. Without a specific plan, a trader does not know, among other things, when or where he will exit the trade or how much money may be made or lost. Traders with no predetermined trading plan are flying by the seat of their pants, and that's usually a recipe for a "crash and burn."

2. Inadequate trading assets or improper money management. It does not take a fortune to trade the stock or futures markets successfully. Traders with less than $10,000 in their trading accounts can and do trade successfully. And traders with $50,000 or more in their trading accounts can and do lose it all in a heartbeat. Part of trading success boils down to proper money management and not gunning for those high-risk "home-run" type trades that involve too much capital at one time.

3. Expectations that are too high, too soon. Beginning traders who expect to quit their "day jobs" and make a good living trading in their first few years are usually disappointed. You don't become a successful doctor or lawyer or business owner in the first couple of years of the practice. It takes hard work and perseverance to achieve success in any field of endeavor -- and trading is no different. Trading markets is not the easy, "get-rich-quick" scheme that a few unsavory characters make it out to be.

4. Failure to use protective stops. Using protective buy or sell stops upon entering a trade provide a trader with a good idea of how much money he or she is risking on that particular trade, should it turn out to be a loser. Protective stops are a good money-management tool, but they're not perfect. There are no perfect money-management tools in futures trading.

5. Lack of "patience" and "discipline." While these two virtues are overworked and very often mentioned when determining what unsuccessful traders lack, not many will argue with their merits. Indeed: Don't trade just for the sake of trading or just because you haven't traded for a while. Let those very good trading "setups" come to you, and then act upon them in a prudent way. The market will do what the market wants to do -- and nobody can force the market's hand.

6. Trading against the trend -- or trying to pick tops and bottoms in markets. It's human nature to want to buy low and sell high (or sell high and buy low for short-side traders). Unfortunately, that's not a proven means of making profits in futures trading. Top-pickers and bottom-pickers are usually trading against the trend, which is a major mistake.

7. Letting losing positions ride too long. Most successful traders will not sit on a losing position for very long. They'll set a tight protective stop, and if it's hit, they'll take their losses (usually minimal), then move on to the next potential setup. Traders who sit on a losing trade "hoping" the market will soon turn in their favor are usually doomed.

8. "Overtrading." Trading too many markets at one time is a mistake -- especially if you are racking up losses. If losses are piling up, it's time to cut back on trading, even though the temptation is to make more trades to recover the recently lost assets. It takes keen focus and concentration to be a successful futures trader. Having "too many irons in the fire" at one time is a mistake.

9. Failure to accept complete responsibility for your actions. When you have a losing trade or are in a losing streak, don't blame your broker or someone else. You are responsible for your own success or failure in trading. You make the decisions. If you feel you are not in firm control of your own trading, then why do you feel that way? You should make immediate changes that put you in firm control of your own trading destiny.

10. Not getting a bigger-picture perspective on a market. One can look at a daily bar chart and get a shorter-term perspective on a market or stock trend. But a look at the longer-term weekly or monthly chart for that same market can reveal a completely different picture. It is prudent to examine longer-term charts for that bigger-picture perspective when contemplating a trade.

Jim Wyckoff is a senior market analyst for TradingEducation.com a free educational Web site. In addition, Wyckoff writes a blog offering current market commentaries every morning on TraderBlog.com. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Wyckoff appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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