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QW 030212 “Be Machiavellian”

This week’s David Brooks Op-Ed in The New York Times was really a good read as it always is. The entire article talks about how hard our habit-making could be and how we could possibly change our lives in any better ways with a good control of our habits. The author, David Brooks, is a distinguished writer/columnist who I personally think can convey his messages clearly, cogently and convincingly without using much of political or economical terminology or jargon. Which I truly admire.
The title of the article, “The Machiavellian Temptation”, was somehow puzzling to me before delving into the article. My understanding of the adjective Machiavellian in this context was complemented by the following definitions obtained through online search:

- Characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty: He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead.
- Suggestive of or characterized by expediency, deceit, and cunning.

The following part of the David’s article also gives a clue to understand what the title connotes:
If the 19th-century model implied a moralistic captain steering the ship of the soul, the new character model implies a crafty Machiavellian, deftly manipulating the neural networks inside. To be an effective person, you are supposed to coolly appraise your own unconscious habits, and the habits of those under your care. You are supposed to devise oblique strategies to alter the triggers and routines. Every relationship becomes slightly manipulative, including your relationship with yourself. You’re marketing to yourself, trying to arouse certain responses by implanting certain cues.

In my shallow understanding, the whole point of this article is something like that we should be aware of the power of unconscious habits to affect everything we do in our lives, and thus, we need to cleverly manipulate the neural networks deep down our consciousness by devising strategies to alter the triggers to evoke our actions in the ways we would like to divert. But the thing is, it’s whether we actually do take actions after reading this thought-provoking piece that counts, isn’t it?

(40 minutes / 343 words)

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Aya

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