Are You a Scanner or a Diver?

Do you ever feel anxious about not knowing what your calling is, because you’re interested in so many things? Well, you may be a Scanner, and the good news is that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one thing.

In our last episode, Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!, Melia talked about identifying her core purpose as a wounded healer – someone who helps others through the same kinds of struggles she’s gone through. 

Gill said that she hasn’t yet figured out her core purpose, which can sometimes make her feel stressed and inadequate, and send her down a rabbit hole of “shoulds” and “should haves.” Not fun! So instead of doing that, this time she resolved to approach the question with curiosity, exploration, and experimentation. She just discovered the book, Refuse to Choose!: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love by Barbara Sher, and feels like it was written just for her. Sher was a pioneering career counselor, life coach, and author who just passed away last year, and we love her playful, affirming, and helpful writing style.  

If you are feeling anxious about where you are on your life’s path, whether you’re stuck, feel like you’re heading in the wrong direction, or don’t know where to go, she will reassure you that no experience is wasted and give you concrete exercises to help reconnect with your core passions.

Are You a Scanner or a Diver?

In Refuse to Choose, Sher gives advice for a group of people she calls Scanners (a term she coined in her book I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was). Scanners have “intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects” – they like to scan the horizon for more interests instead of doing a deep dive into just one. 

A Diver, on the other hand, is “someone who is happy being completely absorbed by one field.” They’re the specialists and experts in that area. 

Sher writes:

“Some clear examples of Divers are professional musicians, scientists, mathematicians, professional chess players, athletes, business owners, financiers. These people may ‘relax’ with a hobby, but they’re rarely passionate about anything but their field. In fact, Divers often wonder how people can be interested in anything but what they’re interested in. Sometimes they even make fun of themselves for it, like the racing bicyclist Tim Krabbé described in The Rider, who glances up from his gear to look at people walking and says, ‘Nonracers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.’” 

Scanners are super curious and creative and interested in the world, which can have a lot of upsides. Sher writes:

“Scanners love to read and write, to fix and invent things, to design projects and businesses, to cook and sing, and to create the perfect dinner party. (You’ll notice I didn’t use the word ‘or,’ because Scanners don’t love to do one thing or the other; they love them all.)” 

But our society tells Scanners they need to change and specialize in one thing. And we can also get in our own way and become frozen with all the possibilities. She writes: 

“To Scanners the world is like a big candy store full of fascinating opportunities, and all they want is to reach out and stuff their pockets. 

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The problem is, Scanners are starving in the candy store. They believe they’re allowed to pursue only one path. But they want it all. If they force themselves to make a choice, they are forever discontented. But usually Scanners don’t choose anything at all. And they don’t feel good about it.” 

Sher is clear that Scanners aren’t broken and don’t need to be fixed. The book is about giving yourself permission to stop trying to find your one true passion and instead follow your enthusiasm for curiosity, creativity and learning in a lot of different ways to create a fulfilling life. 

Gill identifies strongly as a Scanner, and this framework has helped her be more self-compassionate and excited about exploring her many different interests. 

Melia thinks she has a Scanner’s mind and a Diver’s heart. She’s curious about a lot of things like a Scanner, but psychology and personal development have been her core interests at least since her teen years. She’s endlessly fascinated by what makes people tick, and this interest has influenced her work in both marketing and personal development content creation. 

Get It Together / Got It Together

We each share something that we’d like to work on and something that’s going well for us right now.

Melia Get It Together: Balancing downtime with work

Melia’s Got It Together: Recognizing that she’s evolved

Gill’s Get It Together: Staying up too late and hating mornings

Gill’s Got It Together: Celebrating a wedding anniversary, pandemic-style

Get In Touch

Do you identify more as a Scanner, a Diver? Email us at podcast[at]semitogether.com or send us a voice memo.

If you haven’t already, take a moment to subscribe to Semi-Together or leave us a rating or review. You can also support the podcast through Patreon at patreon.com/semitogether.