When stock markets fall, my emotions tend to rise as the balance of my portfolio dwindles.

However, times of stock market weakness can be when investors make the most money — it’s just that we don’t then know it!

In order to profit from stock market setbacks, I reckon it pays to get a grip on emotional reactions by applying five disciplines.

1. Detachment

We have to accept that stock market corrections, reversals, pullbacks and bear markets are all part of the game. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy for me to watch my portfolio decline by 50%,  as it might. But unless I accept it, I’ll be paralysed like a rabbit caught in the headlights and will be unable to turn such events to my advantage.

So, the first discipline to help snatch success from falling markets is detachment. To master that, I reckon it helps to extend the investment time horizon. Over five years or more, bear markets and corrections can come and go, so a setback becomes less important.

2. Logic

If I’ve selected and hold great businesses they’ll survive an economic turndown and go on to thrive again. If great businesses sell at depressed valuations, the stock market will re-rate them up over time.

That kind of logic should override any fears I have about plunging share prices. So, when the stock market falls I should hold tight to the shares I own and buy more shares in great companies at the bargain prices on offer. Those great-value purchases will turbo-charge my returns in the years to come.

3. Focus

Fortune favours the prepared mind, which is why it’s so important to know where to strike when panic selling hits the stock market, driving prices down. A prepared bear market watch list can help with that.

Often when markets fall, we’re bombarded with news reports of doom and gloom, which can lead to panic and confusion. To overcome that I need to focus on my watch list shares and the shares held in my portfolio. That way I can tune out the ‘noise’ and make investment decisions to build my future wealth.

4. Analysis

The way to understand companies is with thorough analysis. I need a good understanding of a firm’s valuation, trading markets, opportunities and threats. The deeper the understanding, the more decisive I can be when the opportunity to buy shares at reduced prices presents itself.

5. Patience

Once I’ve focused my attention on a narrow range of potential or actual investments and have become comfortable with my analysis of their metrics and prospects, patience is required.

It would be easy to jump in straight away on the strength of the conviction I’ve developed by putting in the research work. But the greatest returns usually arrive after I use that conviction to buy when others are running scared and selling. It feels uncomfortable to buy at such times, but I’m often glad I did.

If I apply these five disciplines, there’s nothing to fear when the stock market temporarily heads in the wrong direction. In fact, such occurrences could be viewed as an opportunity to snatch success from falling markets.

Rather than dumping my carefully chosen shares and the slices of great businesses they represent, I’m looking for stock market weakness to provide decent opportunities to buy more of a good thing at good-value prices.

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