The Spiritual Exercises and Wall Street

Chris Lowney is a former Jesuit, former J.P. Morgan investment banker, and currently full-time speaker and author.  He recently gave a talk at Fordham with the provocative title: “Could St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises Have Spared Us the 2008 Wall Street Crash?”

Probably not, said Lowney, but the values of the Exercises could have helped Wall Street professionals make better decisions that might have eased the crisis. “Virtually no attention has been paid to help sharpen the decision-making skills of the human actors in this industry,” he said. “This is where Ignatius and his Exercises can contribute critically.”  He listed five ways that Ignatius’s “spiritual technologies” can help financiers–and anyone else–make better decisions.

  • Embracing purpose beyond self in a culture that presses us to pursue self-interest alone. “St. Ignatitus’ Exercises force participants to reflect deeply about human purpose before making decisions about their own careers or the lives of others.”
  • Distinguishing ends from means in a world that has collapsed the distinction between ends and means. “We court problems when we become so fixated on any means, however good, that we forget to think about purpose; or, in worst cases, where we turn a means into an end.”
  • Making free, purpose-driven choices rather than acting on unhealthy attachments. “As Ignatius would see it, we humans often choose badly not because we lack data or analytical tools, but because we are gripped by ‘disordered attachments,’ unfreedoms or desires or biases that undermine our decision-making ability.”
  • Developing a habit of reflection in a world that just moves on.
  • Becoming courageous leaders in a world with too few of them.

Lowney develops these ideas in his book, Heroic Living: Discover Your Purpose and Change the World.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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