On ‘scanners’ and dreams

Concentration is something I struggle with on a semi-regular basis. I carry around an overwhelming amount of thoughts and ideas in my head, swirling and dizzying, but I rarely stop to write them down – to collect and make sense of them. Inspiration strikes and then dissipates almost as quickly as it arrived. I find myself jumping from one topic of interest to another – my passion intense and bright before being replaced by another possibility. I skim the surface of multiple areas, never settling comfortably at one. I think about the future constantly and how I can live my life doing something that I love. Living on a small farm raising alpacas? Holistic wellness coach? Running a local food security program? (I’ve hardly had any experience with gardening), natural health care field? librarian? aromatherapy consultant? delectable bath product designer? travel writer? grief counsellor? disability rights education? I receive such a ‘high’ from the initial onset of an idea, followed by all-consuming research on a particular topic. I get excited and disclose this newfound passion to a few people (note: I admit, I sometimes feel ashamed and flaky and scatterbrained and non-commital, so I will also keep a lot of information to myself), receiving mixed reviews. “Oh, that’s interesting, but how realistic is it?” It’s a well meaning comment, meant to ‘ground’ me, to make me think about the multiple barriers that exist – there are bills to pay and debts to pay off and food to buy, and “seriously, how can you possibly make enough money selling aromatherapy oils to support yourself?” Yes, I understand. Perhaps that alone is far-fetched, but this sort of argument automatically shuts down conversation and possibility and creative thought! Not only that, it discredits people’s dreams. Let people dream dammit! It keeps imagination alive! It’s motivation! It’s food for the soul! It’s fun! We need to hang on to any ounce of child-like wonder we still have.

What are you passionate about?
What makes you smile all over?
What is your inner child telling you?
How do you ‘play’ in your every day life?
What motivates you?
What exciting ideas are you carrying around in your head?

I’ve been thinking a lot of about these things and I recently discovered that this is a common ‘problem’ (thankfully, this new source of knowledge reframed it for me as a strength, not a weakness). In her book ‘Refuse to Choose!’,  Barbara Sher coined the term ‘scanner’  – people with mulitple interests who can’t focus on one particular thing.

“Everyone knows that if you don’t focus on one thing you’ll never get anywhere. And most people seem pretty sure that if you’re interested in everything and lose interest in most things before you’ve completed them, that you are almost certainly lazy, shallow (ever been called a ‘dilettante?), self-indulgent and afraid of hard work. As a result you are un-deserving of respect unless you change your ways.

And Scanners try. They really do. Almost no Scanner tries to defend himself because they’re convinced that their critics are right. As a result they’re overcome with joy when they become unusually enthusiastic about something, because they’re hoping that this time they’ve finally found The One Right Thing and they’ll never again have to endure the despair of losing interest and inviting scorn again.

And it’s not only the opinions of others that make Scanners unhappy. They fear that they’ll never find what they want, that they’ll never use their abilities in any useful ways or make their contribution and the world will never know they were there. And one part of that is true: if Scanners don’t learn how to handle their unusual love of discovery and fascination with learning, they could waste their often prodigious talents.

But there’s no major in college called ‘Eclecticism’ and no advisors to direct them toward a respectable career so they’re left to float in their condition, unhappily unaware that many people are just like them – and that there isn’t anything at all wrong with any of them.”

Barbara Sher http://scannersrefusetochoose.blogspot.com

You don’t have to settle on one thing.
Let your mind roam free.
Be gentle and patient with youself (this one is for me).


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