The 4 Modes of Life – Part 1

Dr. TonyNSA

Raising your standards is a way to not only avoid pain and painful situations, it’s a way of taking command of your thoughts, perspectives and attitudes and creating more meaning in your life. If you want to raise the standards that you hold yourself to, being aware of how you’re doing life in the moment and day to day is essential.

At the risk of creating analysis-paralysis, over the next few articles, I’d like to take a closer look at 4 modes or ways that we “do” life. I think it’s important to look at this particularly because we typically don’t see them…they are merely there like props in the background of a scene of a play or movie. We rarely tend to notice them.

Interestingly, pain, hardship, challenge, feeling “off” could be the first indicators that the way we are “doing” our lives needs to be looked at.

It’s a little like when you buy a car, it comes with a maintenance schedule. You could follow it and check the car every so often, being proactive, or you could wait until the car develops a problem and you have no choice but to take it in. The same goes for looking at how we “do” life. We could wait until there’s a problem or … .

Each of the modes has a particular set of characteristics as well as gifts. The 4 modes are:

The Observer

The Learner

The Explorer

The Seeker

Now you may feel tempted to intuitively assign yourself to one of these 4 modes. Or you may start to develop opinions as we go through them that one is better than another, more favourable for some reason. Rather than thinking of them in a linear way as if they were stages of development, think of them as pieces of a pie.

Each piece holds the keys to unlock the other pieces. Let’s look at the first mode, the Observer.

I think of the Observer as the shy wallflower at a high school dance. Who in their lives hasn’t held themselves back at one time or another? Holding yourself back isn’t always a bad thing either. This is one of the characteristics of the Observer that can be a blessing or it can be harmful.

The Observer tends to sit back and observe rather than getting more involved.  They avoid pain, striving for comfort. Their driving emotion is fear and their choices are mostly about surviving. Safety and control are paramount values.

If you consider the wallflower at a high school dance, while they’re observing people on the dance floor, they will also be thinking. They’ll be imagining themselves going up to someone they like and asking them to dance or they’ll be thinking that other people are talking about them, entertaining their insecurities. The Observer is prone to thinking and imagining all kinds of scenarios instead of living life. They use thinking to create distance between themselves and their experience of life.

After reading all of this, you might feel that to “do” life as an Observer is really crappy or the least valuable mode. The Observer brings gifts with it as well. Without survival, well need I say more? To be able to unplug, to be able to feel “ok”, to create a separation between yourself and a perceived threat, and to create a sense of safety and consistency are all gifts of the Observer. And the biggest gift of all is the ability to have awareness and to witness. The ability to stand back and take in what’s happening is the key to accessing the other modes.

Next week we’ll look at The Learner!

The 4 Modes of Life - Part 2
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