What have you done so far?

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

11 thoughts on “What have you done so far?

  1. Good post. If we insist on finishing everything we try, even when we soon realize it isn’t what we want to do, then one of two things happens: we spend our life completing things we don’t want to do, just to say we did; or we aren’t willing to try anything new for fear we’ll get trapped into finishing something we don’t want to do.

    I allowed my kids to try things and quit. How else are you going to know?

    I should allow myself the same.

    • I so agree! Your point about allowing children to start some things without finishing (maybe not all, but at least some) is especially good.

      It’s true we aren’t nearly as wise or compassionate when it comes to ourselves. πŸ™‚

  2. One of my favorite songs says “Take every knock as a boost. And every stumbling block as a stepping stone.”
    Scanner’s perspective is a great way to look at life. πŸ™‚

  3. Very intrigued to learn more about this book, and also love this perspective (I’m another one who has been accused of being ‘non-committal’ when it comes to what I want to be when I grow up) …

    • Something else I just realized from the book is that I DO have a threat connecting my various interests and (non)commitments! I’m still working on explaining it, but plan to do so later this week.

      I think that a lot of writers can relate to what Sher says. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Great subject and post. I appreciate the Change your life ebook download. I love to read. I can honestly say that the Bible changed my life as I have now read it 7x page by page for my change your life experience. I guess I will have to write it someday. I have never had someone to “look up to” or “cheer me on” or build me up really. My current boyfriend of 6 years is IT. So, I guess I need to step back and look at my life experiences that were GOOD, not bad. All my so called failures were lessons I needed to learn to build my character. For example, I use to be the one to say YES YES YES to anyone and everyone for anything: I don’t do that any longer but then again I am in my 40’s-which may be a normal thing to do at my age. I need to come back here and post more comments, you are awesome and Inspirational. Thank you.

    • Jackie, I am so glad that writing about my own experiences and struggles is a way to connect with others who are going through similar things. I can relate to so much of what you write here: saying YES YES YES far too often, learning to remember (and re-tell) the good memories… I’m in my 40s, too, so maybe that’s part of the connection. πŸ™‚

      Thank you for your generous words.

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