Happy Monday, everyone! What are your plans for this week?

photo of unfinished bridgeIs it obvious that I woke up in a positive mood? I think I know the reason. Yesterday afternoon I continued my re-reading of Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose!, and when I woke up this morning, I thought about one of her exercises early in the book: The “What Have I Done So Far?” List.

“Take out a sheet of paper or your Scanner Daybook and write a list … with as many experiences or accomplishments, big and small, as you can think of, from teaching your dog a trick when you were a kid, to painting a portrait, to raising your own children or helping someone pass an exam. Include all the projects that you started that didn’t get finished, businesses that didn’t get off the ground, courses you didn’t complete, and novels you planned but didn’t write. Don’t think too long, just write down anything that comes to mind.” ~ Refuse to Choose!

Not until I began re-framing my past experiences as “what I’ve done so far” did I begin to realize just how much I’d been viewing those same experiences as failures rather than accomplishments. Sher writes that some people are natural Scanners: rather than diving deeply in a specialization and gaining satisfaction from one interest (Divers), they constantly scan the horizon for new things to learn and to explore. What often holds them back are not their Scanner traits, but their belief that how and who they are are wrongβ€”that they should finish everything they start, they should have a more single area of focus, they should have accomplished more by now. that they should be more like Divers.

This morning when I woke up I began to think about my activities and jobs as an adult, not as failed attempts this time, but as “what I’ve done so far” (the descriptions in parentheses are how I am used to thinking of each item):

  • worked as a technical writer and used that experience later to teach technical writing (abandoned technical writing, which was a lucrative job, after two years)
  • got my M.A. (did not continue for my Ph.D.)
  • have taught at the same college since 1989 (am only an adjunct)
  • helped to write and edit four different newsletters, two of which I created (didn’t stay with one newsletter project forever)

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. What strikes me this morning is that the very act of looking at my past with a new perspective, a Scanner’s perspective, gives me an entirely new outlook on not just my past, but my present and future: perhaps my path has been one of successive accomplishments rather than a series of failed attempts. Who’d have thunk it?!

I’m very eager to learn more about how Scanners can learn habits of structure and discover the common thread that drives their interests, and I definitely plan to share here my experience. For now, though, I’m basking in a newfound sense of accomplishment. Listen to Barbara Sher talk about her book and see if you, too, might be a Scanner:


What have you done so far?

Barbara Sher’s Website