Spirituality and Behavioral Economics – Scientific Case for Mindful Decision Making

The Graham School

Chicago Booth Alumni Club of Chicago

November 11, 2013: 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

This inaugural workshop in the Spirituality & Economics Series makes the scientific case for us to adopt a holistic spiritual mindset to improve our decision making and wellbeing.


Gleacher Center
450 North Cityfront Plaza Drive
Chicago, Illinois

Event Details

The workshop is targeted for a general audience. The workshop registrants will get an email with an interdisciplinary reading list of essays and academic papers that may span economics, philosophy of the mind, cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, and spirituality. The workshop lecture will cover a broad review of the academic literature, followed by guided contemplative meditation practices that aim to enhance participants overall enrichment of the experience, and provide mental tools for reflective inquiry and learning. Our aim is to create an open space for reflection and discussion. WARNING: This workshop is NOT a spectator sport.  Be prepared to be vulnerable, engage authentically with strangers, and talk about your emotions and all of that touchy feely stuff.


No Charge


Register Online

Deadline: 11/10/2013


6:00 PM-6:15 PM: Participant Introductions

6:15 PM-7:15 PM: Lecture

7:15 PM-8:00 PM: Guided Meditations

8:00 PM-9:00 PM: Discussion

Speaker Profiles

Navaid Abidi (Speaker) '06

Navaid spends his fun time researching the science of mindful decision making. He has taught meditation in Chicago for the past two decades and is working with some of the leading economists to construct behavioral economic experiments that would map impact of neuroscience inspired targeted meditations techniques on economic and health decision making.

Navaid is a serial entrepreneur and has, over the past decade, served in executive roles in frontiers of financial industry, from algorithmic high frequency trading, to global portfolio management, to investment benchmarking, to financial planning through all phases of life. Navaid has a passion for applying financial and behavioral economics for meaningful betterment of the lives of ordinary people. His financial technology innovations are currently being used by some of the largest financial institutions for benchmarking of the global investment managers and retirement guidance in 401(K) plans for over 1 million Americans. Navaid is a philanthropic investor in social enterprise projects that span Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has served on the board of directors of the Human Development Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates development programs for some of the most marginally deprived communities in South Asia. While serving on the board of HDF, Navaid traveled extensively to the program sites and supervised creation of an innovative digital education program that has demonstrated to be one of the most scalable, cost effective, and highest marginal impact rural education intervention in the developing world.

Navaid has a B.S in Electrical Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering and graduated Beta Gamma Sigma with an MBA in Analytic Finance and Econometrics from Chicago Booth.  He is a member of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group at the UChicago Becker Friedman Institute and serves as a Mentor to graduate students at the Harris School of Public Policy.  Navaid is also the current President of the Chicago chapter of the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America.


Navaid Abidi, '06 


Other Information

The first part of the 20th century saw the triumph of rationality driven by scientific advances and success of free markets. However, in the past two decades the pendulum has swung back on rationality. Recent scientific evidence from behavioral economics, psychology and neuroscience demonstrate that our thinking has deep flaws that result in poor economic and health decisions. These flaws also enable us to be easily manipulated by others. Although each faulty decision seems isolated in nature, the aggregate lifetime results are catastrophic. More than 7 in 10 Americans report suffering from at least some combination of chronic stress, fear, anxiety, depression, insomnia, obesity or addiction to some substance or virtual goods. We seem helpless in changing our self-destructive behaviors even after knowing about the mounting costs of healthcare and trying out all sorts of pop psychology and fads solutions. Behavioral Economists have prescribed enlightened paternalistic public policies to save us from ourselves, but many of us reject such coercive oversight in our lives. The only way out is for us to take responsibility and fundamentally alter the way we make decisions. Based on recent evidence from neuroscience of meditation and mindfulness, we make the case for humble scientific exploration of spiritual practices that allow us to take back control of our volition, make better life decisions and enhance our sense of wellbeing.