Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

Modes of Life

I recently read an interesting article by Buster Benson that touches on the notion of “modes”.

Everything in the universe goes through cycles. Cycles of high energy and low energy. Cycles of change and stability. Cycles of focus and distraction. We’re no different, but most of the time we are trying to force fit ourselves into a mode that we aren’t in, and that causes trouble.

Buster outlined modes (or states) that he encounters from day-to-day throughout his life. Modes realised through self-awareness that become a method of changing things when feeling stuck. And it got me thinking about some of the various modes I feel I enter into in life as well. So I also created a similar list.

Self Mode

A state of introspection. A way to reconnect with myself and understand what my needs are and what I can do to meet them. It’s also a way to revisit values, beliefs, and short/long-term goals. For me, this will include getting quality sleep, good nutrition, light exercise like yoga and cycling, practising meditation, and generally a healthy spell of solitude.

Slow Mode

This is all about slow living. Slowing down and leaving the chaos to one side. It’s a time to forget about work commitments, calendars, people, and politics. It’s a time where I like to enjoy the simple things in life. Making coffee, tidying my home, watching Netflix, spending time with my cats, going for walks, or capturing photos. It’s about being present in the moment and taking the pressure off everything.

Work Mode

One of two focus states. Where focus goes, energy flows. This is about fixing things, cleaning things, maintaining things, organising things, and planning things. It’s also a mode when I need to focus on learning, researching, reading, writing, designing, and editing. Hell, even using social media. This is not a state I can sustain for long periods though; it’s just not in me and I’m OK with that. This is the productivity mode that is measured by action, not by time.

Training Mode

The second focus state. This is when I need to balance mental and physical strength without distraction. Investing time and effort into things I find important for my personal growth. Whether climbing or weight training, I like to push my body and mind (some days more than others). Overcoming uncertainties, fears, doubts, challenges, and fatigue. Playing the long game to enjoy the fun things in life and better understand my mind and body along the way.

Recovery Mode

Not dissimilar to Self and Slow Mode. This is about identifying what the mind and body needs in order to feel better. We never know what is around the corner and we never know how hard it will hit us. Like a global pandemic. And sometimes we simply need to reset. So we need time and space to recover. For me, this is about taking a simple approach and focusing on the basics: quality sleep (not just at night, but even a siesta through the day), plenty of water, eating well, switching off from technology, reading a (non-educational) book, and exploring nature. It might even include going on a well-being retreat of some kind (not that I have ever done that, but I’m open to it). It might be opening up to a friend or a stranger to release an emotional burden. Whatever it is you need to recover from, be patient and allow yourself to rebuild and regain control.

People Mode

I wouldn’t say I am a “people person”. I would consider myself an introvert. With that said however, spending quality time with certain people can be extremely rewarding. This is a mode I switch to when I find it’s important to focus on others. Whether it’s with my partner, my family, or a few close friends. It might even be as simple as sharing things people have done to celebrate and support good things they are doing in this world. It’s about making better connections, not taking people for granted, and remembering just how short life is.

Writing these, I realise that I experience different modes multiple times a day, but I can also take a step back and reflect on what mode I was in from a general perspective; be it over the course of a week, a month, or even a year. It’s an interesting exercise in self-care and being aware that you can intentionally switch modes. Sometimes though, you have to be patient with yourself. Don’t force it.

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