New Year Forecasts

2010 is coming to a close. It is the tail-end of what appears to be the worst three years of financial crisis since the Great Depression. Economists explain that the use of complex derivatives is one of the major reasons for the collapse of large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments, and downturns in stock markets around the world. It became about predictions over how much one quantity is changing in response to changes in some other quantity.

Though the market and the shopping trends this season may show signs of economic revival, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is simply insanity, according to Albert Einstein. As long as the banking institutions continue to gamble on the rise and fall of complex formulaic quantities rather than back to the basics, nothing will change.

My forecast is that derivatives will continue to be played out in the financial markets as well as other sectors. In our personal lives, lest you continue to do what you have always done and expect something different, here are some less complicated derivatives:

  • Do you measure love on the cost of the gift you received this week?
  • Do you measure luck by how many times you successfully avoided cracks on the sidewalk?
  • Do you measure security by having checked that your windows and doors are locked at least three times before you leave the house?
  • Do you measure safety by how perfectly symmetrical your art pieces on the wall are aligned?
  • Do you measure cleanliness on how many times you washed your hands when you come home?

I consider these behavioral derivatives; the original intent or motivation is subservient to the secondary or tertiary behavior. And I would argue the ultimate intent and motivation to these obsessive-compulsive symptoms and sometimes superstitious actions are our wish for happiness. It is a sad, powerless way of controlling our outer environment, believing that it will makes us less anxious and nervous, that it will make us happier.

Whether you have a mild to severe case of anxiety this holiday season or you are actually diagnosed with symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it is your brain chemistry causing discomfort rather than a character flaw. It is possible to redirect your brain chemistry by developing awareness of the discomfort, noticing it without judgment, pausing, then deciding on your action.

For the new year, for all of us in this anxiety-prone and consumption-oriented society, I highly recommend taking five to ten minutes each morning or evening to just breath and watch your thoughts. You can easily find instructions on being still if you wish. You will certainly discover the benefits of being aware of your thought-stream soon enough.

Furthermore, for some dear friends whose brains often receive urges to act on obsession or compulsion, I highly recommend Jeffrey M. Schwartz’s prescription of a breakthrough treatment based on mindfulness meditation. Here is a summary of his four steps from Brain Lock:

Step 1 — RE-LABEL = You must recognize that the intrusive obsessive thoughts and urges are the RESULT of “OCD.” You must call the intrusive thought or urge to do a troublesome compulsive behavior exactly what it is! It is an obsessive thought or a compulsive urge. You must develop the ability to recognize the difference between the unpleasant feelings that “OCD” symptoms cause and reality!

Step 2 — RE-ATTRIBUTE = You must realize that the intensity and intrusiveness of the thought or urge is CAUSED by “OCD,” which is probably related to a biochemical imbalance in the brain . You must ask the question, “Why does this keep bothering me?” And, you must answer it by accepting that you have a medical condition called “OCD.”

Step 3 — RE-FOCUS = You must work around the “OCD” thoughts by focusing your attention on something more constructive, at least for a few minutes. DO ANOTHER BEHAVIOR by “shifting gears” and performing an alternative, wholesome behavior. You can actually repair the “gearbox” in your own brain by learning how to “RE-FOCUS” in a consistent way!

This is where the hardest work is done and where the change in brain chemistry takes place. However, things come together very quickly, resulting in an almost automatic response. You can recognize”OCD” thoughts as “false” messages!

Step 4 — RE-VALUE = Don’t take the “OCD” thought at face value! It is NOT significant in itself. You must “RE-VALUE” those thoughts and urges when they arise. You will learn to “devalue” unwanted obsessive thoughts and compulsive urges as soon as they intrude.

2011 is the year for change. Do not let your thoughts, obsessions and compulsions drive you any longer. Switch to a happier way of living by repositioning the needle on the record player of your mind. Stop chasing after consumer trends or aggregating by betting on predictions.

May all be free from the mind’s burdens!