It’s ten years now since I’ve learned I’m a Scanner. This knowledge has enriched my life and given me the permission to grow on so many levels. To celebrate this, I’m sharing ten Scanner lessons with you (and offering you my e-book How to Thrive With Too Many Interests).
In April 2009 I entered a bookstore and stumbled across the book: Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher.
Imagine my astonishment: “There is a name for people with too many interests?! There are more people like me?” I bought the book and read it, totally fascinated.
Since then, Barbara’s work has accompanied me in various ways (and I’ve recommended this book a hundred times and will keep doing it).
10 years of knowingly leading a Scanner’s life – what have I learned from it?
Join me on this celebration article journey.
1. Identity: Scanner, know thyself
It is important to know yourself in order to be able to coach yourself properly.
When I found Barbara’s book, I hadn’t been a totally unfulfilled Scanner until then! In fact, I had done a lot of different stuff and loved it. But still I didn’t really understand why I was so weird. And I hadn’t assessed this Scanner quality according to its actual value.
Reading the book and doing the exercises, I started to “use all of my interests, passions, and hobbies to create the life and career of my dreams”, as the subtitle suggests. An ongoing journey and lots of fun and good company!
It’s the same Aha moment people keep having when they find the Facebook group or the book. It’s so good to know we’re not alone, right? 😊
Next, how are we going to finance ourselves as Scanners?
This is what works for me:
2. The Good Enough Job: The one that funds your dreams
“The best friend of almost every type of Scanner is what I call the Good Enough Job. It isn’t your dream job; it’s the one that funds your dreams (…) whose only crime is that it’s just not enough to fulfill your life.”
Barbara Sher, Refuse to Choose
When I bought the book, I was planning to attend a long series of seminars and then set up a healing practice. My goal was to finally be able – to do all the creative stuff I loved so much! Everything.
Good Enough Job?
Why don’t I keep the one I have and do all the rest right away?!
And that’s what I did. The job (a consulting job in the public sector) even turned out to be a great enough career. But it could never be enough for me. And fortunately it doesn’t have to.
Okay, and what to do with all the ideas that keep popping up?
Here is what I do:
3. Scanner Daybook: Ideas are precious in themselves
Give yourself permission to have fun with your own impulses, thoughts and ideas with no obligation whatsoever.
The Scanner Daybook is “the most important piece of equipment in your kit” according to RTC.
To me it has proven to be exactly that! I keep filling them, one by one. My Ideabook is a mixture of archive and mind map, a tool able to take up everything that’s bothering or interesting me.
„With your inquisitive mind no longer under siege, it can start filling out into its real shape.“ (Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are from the book Refuse to Choose.)
The only thing I regret is the years before when I didn’t use large books for the same process, but different notebooks, diaries and sheets of paper…
For me, writing down my ideas in this way means pampering myself and taking my Scanner brain and needs seriously. It’s also a way to balance myself because it takes pressure off my mind to let things flow out like that.
I know not all Scanners do have lots of ideas, it depends on the type:
4. Self-Discovery: Find your Scanner Type(s)
You don’t choose your Scanner Type, you explore it, and everyone’s different.
When I first read the book, I categorized myself as mainly a Sibyl:
- I am surrounded by lots of creative clutter (Check)
- And I do have more projects going on at the same time than I can keep track with (Check)
- I keep returning to the same interests again and again (Check).
This makes me a Sibyl (cyclical Scanner). I found huge comfort in the promise that “Sibyls can be the most productive of all the Scanners”, even if it takes time to build a body of work.
Secondly, I also thought of myself as a Jack of all Trades / universalist, though not as pronounced as the Sibyl part.
Thirdly, when I took Barbara’s Refuse to Choose book club in 2016, I realized I actually liked my trouble shooter job! I didn’t detest it. Obviously I also have shares of the Plate Spinner in me!
Since I realized that, I’ve been even happier with my job. But it’s important to me that this part doesn’t get out of hand or it tires me out. That’s why I’m only working part time.
Check out the Barbara Sher book clubs.
As I said, you don’t choose your Scanner Type, you figure it out in the course of time. But maybe you must make one up like I did: I call myself a Cyclical Master: I’d love to reach a level close to mastership in several of my Sibyl hobbies. Maybe I can do it over time…
What types are you made of?
You find all of them in the book.
But sooner or later, you’re going to need Scanner company:
5. Join the club: It’s great to have like-minded people around you
If you are a Scanner, Scanner should be your new normal.
I read the book, I did the exercises, I was enthused.
And then it occurred to me: These people in my writing club I’d met with for over 10 years now – weren’t they Scanners, too!?
Turned out this hypothesis was right.
I gave a presentation on the book to our little group and everybody said “Yes”. It’s now flourished into a creative circle with all sorts of hobbies. It also seems there are even more people with many interests in my social environment.
But what if I hadn’t had the group?
I would have needed to find or build one.
Just like I had found this one, not even looking for Scanners: by attending events that interested me and thereby meeting people who were interested in the same things.
I guess when you meet interested people, there’s a good chance that Scanners are among them. And you’ll easily recognize them now you know about it.
Having company is key.
If you need to find company, there are even more ways to find people that are like you. These are two more ways I use:
- From 2014 till 2016 I joined Barbara Sher’s Hanging Out, an Identity Rehab for people suffering from chronic work ethics and the like. It made a huge difference in my life. It could be best described as blossoming to full potential.
- Also, there is Barbara Sher’s Facebook Group Scanners and Renaissance Souls that’s always a good place to go and a starting point for more information. Many of us think it has the most interesting discussions of all the Internet.
6. Surf the wave: Interests come and go (they do)
As a scanner you have to know and consider your own tides.
Although I should know better by now, it still makes me sad sometimes when an interest goes to sleep after it has reached its peak.
I need all the trust that I can muster to let it happen. (Not that I could prevent it from doing so. It’s just the tides.)
But here’s the thing: Your hunger for new impulses will never die. Interests will come back and probably with more strength and skill than they had before.
Trust your own Scanner nature and find out how you tick! Which tides are typical for you? How do they come and go? To know this gives you confidence and helps you relax as you travel on your adventure paths.
And certainly this trust needs the company of other people:
7. Success Team: Success comes from having a team
“Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude.”
There certainly are different aspects of successfully pursuing your dreams. But one major aspect is the group that waits for you to show up and deliver. It always does the trick!
Even self-motivated people will tend to forget about (some of) their projects.
But when tomorrow comes and you’ve promised to bring something like a new story, a painting or something, you’re much more likely to do what you wanted to do!
You need a group:
- A group providing you with new ideas.
- Holding your hand.
- Sharing your joy as well as your pain.
Watch the TEDxTalk Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude by Barbara Sher, now viewed by far over a million people.
Ideally speaking, you’d have a success team.
Meeting regularly. Helping and forcing you to do what you want to do.
Maybe you can build one?
But which project is most important? There are so many!
8. Abundance: It’s actually a good thing
There will always be more possibilities than you can go through with.
Don’t be too sad if you can’t put every idea into practice.
Flipping through my first Daybook, I find there are many ideas that I wrote down in 2009 and (still) haven’t put into practice.
Maybe I will do so at some point, with some of them. When the time comes to finally compose this fantasy film music, for example, I’ll be glad to have a lot of material.
And many of my topics from all my sources (like Scanner Daybooks and notebooks – you know, all these different notebooks?!) will probably flow into my blog sometime.
But what I’ve learned is that there’s no way, no way, that every blossom can turn into an apple and that I can eat or use every single apple growing on my Scanner tree! It’s just not possible.
Conclusion: We should be happy about the abundance that our Scanner tree constantly produces. It’s a good thing.
However inspiring the whole process is, I found one thing to be important: Balance.
Without breaks, I just exhausted myself.
Which leads me to my next point:
9. Balance: Take a break and make way for your creativity
Breaks will make you more productive and long-lasting on your Scanner journey.
The creative self loves to be active.
And like a small child it usually doesn’t want to take that break.
But especially for highly sensitive people (HSP) it’s most important that they take good care of their bodies as well. Sleep and walks and meals and all.
This topic shows up in my Daybooks again and again!
Creating my own balance between activity and rest is a major issue for being ongoingly productive in a good way.
Read more about it in this article: 3 Steps to Follow Your Dreams, While at the Same Time Taking Care of Your Balance.
And check out the workshop on that topic I gave on the Write Speak Telesummit 2017. Here you’ll find the script and an audio relaxation exercise as well.
10. Contribution: The world needs you
What you know matters. You can find your own way to make your contribution.
Lastly, from 2016 till 2017 I took Barbara Sher’s WriteSpeak class. I learned what exactly the drive in me was, what it was I needed to express. And I learned how to do it.
“If your desires lie in the direction of speaking, coaching, and/or putting your message in a book, there’s a high probability that you have gifts in that area. I’d be interested in helping you find your gifts and your voice, and, if you find this career suits you, I’d be honored to help give you the start you need.”
Barbara Sher, https://barbarasclub.com/writespeak/
Some people in WriteSpeak focus on writing the book, some on building a speaker’s career. I focused on getting my blog set up. It makes me happy and it’s my way to make a contribution (well, one of the ways, but to me an utterly important one).
Scanners are different. What they know needs to be heard by other Scanners. So, everybody should find their own way to contribute.
Read more about the important of the Scanner quality in our world: Scanners, Renaissance People, Polymaths, Multipotentialites! There Is Hope: Polymath Is The New Normal,
Summary: The 10 Scanner Lessons
- It is important to know yourself in order to be able to coach yourself properly.
- “The best friend of almost every type of Scanner is what I call the Good Enough Job.”
- Give yourself permission to have fun with your own impulses, thoughts and ideas with no obligation whatsoever.
- You don’t choose your Scanner Type, you explore it.
- If you are a Scanner, Scanner should be your new normal.
- As a Scanner you have to know and consider your own tides.
- “Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude.”
- There will always be more possibilities than you can go through with!
- Breaks will make you more productive and long-lasting on your Scanner journey.
- What you know matters. You can find their your way to make your contribution.
I’m so glad to be living in a time when there is a chance to know about multipotentiality. Barbara’s work has been immensely important to me. Thank you, Barbara.
What are some of your most important Scanner lessons?
Let me know in the comments below!
My Gift: How to Thrive With Too Many Interests (E-book)
To celebrate my Scanner Birthday with you, I give you my script, a 40-page pdf e-book. It’s compiled from my English articles.
Thank you for being here. And see you.
Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.