Are you a scanner or a diver?

Do you ever have one of those light bulb moments? I recently did, and it’s probably one of the best things that’s happened to me in years. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article from the UK magazine Psychologies called What do you do when you want to do everything? Of course the  title intrigued me and as I kept reading, I kept thinking, yep, that’s me alright. The article goes on to mention a book by Barbara Sher of the same title, which happens to be sold in the USA as “Refuse To Choose“. I decided to buy right after reading this article. As I started reading it, nodding my head in agreement, I had an epiphany: I am a scanner, and there’s nothing wrong with me!

So who are scanners and divers? You’ll either be one or the other, but you can’t be both. Most people are divers, which means they usually stick to one career path, maybe one hobby (which may change over time) and they focus deeply on them. They become “specialists” in their areas of interest and want to learn as much as they can about them.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are scanners. They tend to be curious not about one thing, but many (not specifically all at once). They don’t like to specialize in an individual field as they find the outlook too restrictive. They enjoy learning about a new subject but eventually get bored once they understand it and move on to another area, job, interest or hobby. Here are a few questions that Barbara Sher asks at the beginning of her book, Refuse To Choose. You don’t have to answer yes to every single question, but if you do to most, you may be a scanner.

Are you a scanner - Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher

Are you a scanner – Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher

Many times in my life I have heard people tell me, why don’t you pick one thing and just go with it? You already have experience in this, or a degree in that field. Just stick to it! And that’s been my problem all along. I don’t want to stick to single one thing for my whole life. How boring would that be? To me, life has so much more to offer than a small slice of pie. I want to have it all! Well, technically, I don’t want all of it but I do have a few interests close to my heart I want to be able to entertain on a regular basis. So this is my life as a scanner, the way I’d like it to be from now on, in no particular order (well, except for the first one on the list):

I am a mother, a teacher, a photographer, a linguist, a reader, a mentor, an artist, a writer, a volunteer and a lifelong learner.

Putting it down on paper makes me realize my list isn’t that long, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it all. Barbara Sher even helped me figure out what type of scanner I am (a cyclical Sybil scanner), so I can plan my life around my many interests. I’m really looking forward to this new way of thinking, and living.

If you’re a scanner, you may enjoy Barbara Sher’s book, as well as The Renaissance Soul: How to Make Your Passions Your Life – A Creative and Practical Guide by Margaret Lobenstine, which I also read recently.

Do you consider a scanner or a diver? (No wrong answer here). What do you consider your main life interest(s)?

15 responses to “Are you a scanner or a diver?

  1. I’d have to say I’m a diver. I dive in deep and go for it. That’s not to say I haven’t taken detours on my life’s road, because of course I have with the writing quest. But if it doesn’t work out, I already have a path to go back to that I enjoy.

    Sounds like an interesting book, especially for those who like frequent changes and are good at many different things. Like you!

    • There’s really not one better than the other, as people think and behave differently. Unfortunately our society frowns upon scanners by pushing aside their resumes, which can seem all over the place. I think it’s naïve to think that in today’s world, all people will pick one career and stay with it their whole lives. Some of us do enjoy a little variety once in a while.

      As for your writing, you can say you’ve taken your hobby to the next level and a drawing from your expertise as a physician to make it happen. John Grisham did that as a lawyer and looks where he is today!

      • That’s my thinking, anyway. Ah, one can dream, no?…

        As for people with scattered resumes, seems to me that should be a plus to an employer, especially with things the way they are now. With technology everywhere, so many different vocations cross paths. Have a variety of skills would be a big asset.

      • You would think jacks and janes of all trades would be attractive. But the people hiring think those employees will leave eventually. Because every company promises to keep its employees for at least 30 years, right? I think we’re going to see more and more people going solo over the next 10 years, until the corporate world starts adjusting.

  2. I wrote about scanners (I’m one) in January. If you want to SCAN the comment thread:

  3. I’m definitely a scanner. I just watched Divergent and thought I would have been divergent in that society as well. I get bored only doing one thing, and one thing only.

  4. I like to do do many things all at once. Co-workers call me “hyper” and I do get bored quickly. Work wise, longest I’d been is my current work. The work is easy, pay okay, most co-workers great to work with, awesome manager but somehow I feel one day soon, I need to do something else. I admire those who have worked and retired in nursing at the same hospital for 20 years or more but can’t imagine myself doing it. So that makes me a Scanner! Really good post my friend. Now I know why my foot have that itch to move and seek new adventures.

    • You make a good point here. Even people who stay in the same field (for example, nursing) can still be tired of the same old routine and want to work in a different environment on a regular basis. Unfortunately society trends to see us as drifters, rather than adventurers. Honestly, I’d rather hire someone who has worked at a variety of places than the same place for years. It shows they can be flexible and don’t mind change, which is a great skill in today’s everchanging world. It will be interesting to see how our kids turn out.

      • I so agree! I wish society’s mislabeling of drifters rather than adventurers for people like us change. It is after all the modern age of constantly changing high tech stuff. Monotony feels like a trap. A prison that we are forced to live and accept. Unhappiness, depression, loosing one self, just a few adverse effects of doing the same things again and again for so many years. The big world out there has so much to offer. Sad, if we never tried exploring it’s many wonders and mysteries. Have a great week.

      • You’re so right. I think a lot more people would be happier and feel accepted if our society didn’t put so much pressure on us to fit into a combined mold. I think scanners would have a lot more to offer if they were understood more.

  5. I enjoyed both the post and the animated discussion that followed. I give the impression of being a diver, but I think I’m a closet scanner. I think it’s the rigid Indian upbringing of having to ‘focus’ all the time!

    • Unfortunately I think a lot of societies look down on scanners, believing that only divers can be valuable contributors. In a world that keeps on changing at such a fast pace, I see nothing wrong on being a flexible scanner. :-)

  6. Gabriel Moraes Barros

    Nice post, I just had a ephifany when I first read the book ( You could do…) from Barbara Sher, and now I just waiting for my Refuse to Choose. So, I have a problem. Where does our income from?

    Because i’m doing a master’s degree, I’m lacking motivation to be a PhD on a given field and I don’t know what to do.

    Great blog, keep then comming.

    • That’s a good question. I honestly think PhDs may not be what’s best for scanners. That’s a lot of years to dedicate to a single field you may get tired of within a few years. I have two master’s degrees (English Linguistics and Teaching French), and I didn’t really use either of them for my first career in marketing. Now that I’m working on going back to teaching, my master’s is coming in handy. But teaching is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, on the side or as a main gig, so it was a good degree for me to have in the first place.

      Going back to your income question, Barbara Sher addresses that issue in Refuse To Choose, letting you consider several options, including do something, anything to pay your bills and give you time to do what you love, doing something related to what you love, or actually working your passion. I’m working on that last one, by making a living out of teaching (part-time right now) and putting together pieces of art that I eventually want to sell. I really think it’s possible to find a way to do what you love, but you may have to think out of the box to get there and support yourself financially. For example, we have roommates to help pay for the mortgage. For a single person, it could be renting a room in a house, rather than a whole apartment, or finding a roommate to split the bills. There are options out there. They may not be that obvious but with a little creativity, they can be found. And scanners are very creative, so it’s worth looking into it. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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