The two modes of thinking

The power of human is in our brains. Our muscles are not stronger than the elephants, our eyes are not as good as eagles eyes. But we are smarter than all of them!

Have you ever had a situation when you fail to use your thinking (to remember something, solve some problems, etc..)? And later on, when you are not trying… you suddenly remember those things, found the solutions for those problems?

I bet you have, and have you ever asked why? If so, this post is for you: There are 2 modes of thinking in our brains.

Processing Mode

When we actively want to think, we are in the first mode of thinking called Processing mode. In this mode, our brains uses logic to solve the problems. Let’s say we have:

A = C and B = C, is A = C?

If you’ve answered that, you were in Processing mode and that is how most of us use our brains. This is how we study at school, this is how we do the exams, this is how we routing on the map and so on.

Free-flowing Mode

At the other side, in this thinking mode, you are not really thinking! What does at means? Meaning that you are not intentionally trigger your thinking, it just comes. And when you want it to comes, it may not comes…

When did you have your best ideas? That would be at a beach, home or toilet… basically when you are not trying to have ideas! The reason for that is because the free-flowing mode is what generates your best ideas and you can only be in this mode when you are not try to be in.

When a speaker speaks to their audiences, they are in this mode. They are not actively thinking but they are speaking ideas out. When children are playing, they are in this mode. They keep collecting new informations and refreshing their mind to play with their toys in the new way.

The explanation may add more confusions but that’s how I want you to understand it. Don’t try to deduce it and don’t think much about it now. Your brain will help you on this later by using this mode of thinking.


Let’s just say we’ve understand it and how is it works. How can we benefiting from that?

First thing to take note is that neither processing mode or free-flowing mode is bad. Each of them is good for their right use cases. Processing mode is better for learning skills, solving science problems, calculating the money…. basically for most of things that we do in life. Free-flowing mode, at the other side, is better when we want look at the bigger picture. When we plan our life for the next 10 years, when we think of something we don’t know yet or when we want to chose our girl/boy friend. Those can be better with free-flowing mode.

Understand how our brains works and use them in a better ways is fun. Keep exploring!

Le Truong Quoc Thang

Written by

Software Engineer

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