What is a Scanner?
by Barbara Sher
Excerpt from her book Refuse to Choose!
has found a few hours for herself, a rare occurrence, and she’s
determined to do something she loves to do. Exactly what that will be
is still undecided, but it won’t be hard to find, because she loves to
do so many things.
stands in front of a large table in her garage, looking at two projects
she has started but never finished. To her left are two straw baskets
of brightly colored yarn, a tube of glue, and a package of construction
paper. Looking at them almost makes her mouth water.
always happy doing crafts and promised a scrapbook to a friend many
months ago. She tries not to look at the shelves behind the table,
where her clay rests inside a plastic bag next to some small wooden
she has more time, she’ll make that ceramic piece she thought up, a
great idea she got while looking through some antique picture books a
while back. But she wishes she could do it right now.
forces her eyes back to the table. In front of her, still in the paper
bag from the store, are four books she bought months ago about the
history of Poland. Also, in the bag is a package of unopened
audiocassettes and a device she bought that will allow her to record
conversations on the telephone.
wants to interview the older members of her family, all of whom are
immigrants from Poland. There hasn’t been a moment to look in the books
since she found them at the bookstore. They sit there like a
tantalizing dessert, saved for some time when she can relax, after the
chores are done.
some of her relatives are growing old; she really should call them
soon. She wonders if she should make a phone call right now and at
least set up some phone appointments with her family and learn how to
hook up the telephone recording system. She misses her Aunt Jessie.
could set it up in 20 minutes if
there were just a clear space for it in the house. Elaine knows the
piano has to stay set up somewhere, because if she has to bring it out
and put it away all the time, she’ll never get around to it.
who has time to clear out a space when the whole house needs clearing
out? If only she were five people instead of just one, she’d do
everything, all of it, right now, today. She looks with longing at the
black-and-white drawing of the electric piano on the box and can almost
hear the music.
voice feels like it’s starting to fill up with music and her fingers
remember the touch of the keys. Could she just open it right here in
the garage and do a little before dinner?
Elaine remembers that she promised her 8-year-old daughter a costume
for a party coming up in a few weeks, and she really should get started
on that and leave all this for another day. In fact, she’s had it set
up on the dining room table for 3 days, and the family has had to eat
on trays in front of the TV set.
She’ll do that right now. But she suddenly remembers that she had
another wonderful idea today in the car on the way home from her
meeting with a client, an idea about a way to bring in some income that
would absolutely work and would cost very little to start, and Elaine
feels a familiar sense of apprehension that if she doesn’t do something
about it right away she’ll forget it like all the other good ideas she
sighs and walks outside into the fresh air and remembers she wanted to
go for a run today. Her dog, who has been lying on the floor nearby,
gets up to follow and wonders what’s bothering her. So does she.
doesn’t have attention deficit disorder. She checked it out with
doctors long ago. And she knows that when she’s involved in any
project, she doesn’t get distracted by irrelevant things.
what’s stopping her? Why is she so indecisive? For that matter, why is
she interested in so many things? Why is she such a great starter but
then runs out of steam and leaves a trail of unfinished projects behind
doesn’t blame her friends and family for smiling knowingly
whenever she gets enthused about something new -- she lets that roll
off her back easily -- but it bothers her that she almost never gets to
see an end product.
how can anyone choose between so many interests? Which is the right
one? Which is the most important? Another thought comes to her. She
remembers that she meant to polish up her Spanish, because she might be
able to teach part-time next year, and she can use the income.
shakes her head, almost resenting the new idea and feeling a hint of
despair that there will always be something new and interesting moving
into her line of vision; even if she ignores them all and firmly
chooses one project or another, these new thoughts have the power to
make her unsure of any choice she’s made.
of her acquaintances know exactly what they’re doing with their lives.
Why doesn’t she just pick something and do it? After all, she’s very
smart and has been told she could do anything! Why can’t she get going?
Does this sound familiar?
Elaine remind you of yourself? Do you also wonder why you’re caught in
this kind of dilemma? Are you unable to figure out what drives you and
why you’re so different from people who made their choices early and
followed one path? Why can’t you start working on your dreams—and stick
will you ever focus your curious mind on one path when you can’t bear
to turn your back on anything? What makes you tick?
it or not, there are very good answers to those questions. If, like so
many Scanners I’ve met, you think the situation is hopeless, you’re in
for some nice surprises.
the first and most important surprise:
If Scanners didn’t think they should limit themselves to one field, 90
percent of their problems would cease to exist!
What is a Scanner?
love to read and write, to fix and invent things, to design projects
and businesses, to cook and sing, and to create the perfect dinner
party. (You’ll notice I didn’t use the word “or,” because Scanners
don’t love to do one thing or the other; they love them all.)
Scanner might be fascinated with learning how to play bridge or bocce,
but once she gets good at it, she might never play it again. One
Scanner I know proudly showed me a button she was wearing that said, “I
Did That Already.”
Scanners the world is like a big candy store full of fascinating
opportunities, and all they want is to reach out and stuff their
sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The problem is, Scanners are starving in
the candy store. They believe they’re allowed to pursue only one path.
But they want them all. If they force themselves to make a choice, they
are forever discontented.
usually Scanners don’t choose anything at
all. And they don’t feel good about it.
kids, most Scanners had been having a great time! At school no one
objected to their many interests, because every hour of every student’s
school day is devoted to a different subject.
some point in high school or soon after, everyone was expected to make
a choice, and that’s when Scanners ran into trouble. While some people
happily narrowed down to one subject, Scanners simply couldn’t.
conventional wisdom was overwhelming and seemed indisputable: If you’re
a jack-of-all-trades, you’ll always be a master of none. You’ll become
a dilettante, a dabbler, a superficial person -- and you’ll never have
a decent career.
a Scanner who all through school might have been seen as an
enthusiastic learner had now become a failure.
one thought wouldn’t leave my mind: If the world had just continued to
accept them as they were, Scanners wouldn’t have had any problems.
the exception of learning project management techniques, the only thing
Scanners needed was to reject conventional wisdom that said they were
every case of low self-esteem, shame, frustration, feelings of
inadequacy, indecisiveness, and inability to get into action simply
disappeared the moment they understood that they were Scanners and
stopped trying to be somebody else.
appears that Scanners are an unusual breed of human being. One reason
they don’t recognize themselves is that they don’t often meet people
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to Choose! A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You
Love - by Barbara Sher
Also see her related article: Are You A Scanner?
Her books have sold millions
of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.
appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, 60 Minutes, CNN, and Good Morning
America, and her popular public television specials air nationally
throughout the year.
Barbara has taught her revolutionary
universities, in Fortune 100 companies, and at professional conferences
all over the world.
Her site: Genius Press
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