Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why can’t scanners stick to anything? Why won’t they make up their minds? Do they fear commitment? Do they have learning disabilities? Are they hopelessly immature, shallow, afraid of hard work?

If not, why don’t they do something about it? Having so many interests is difficult by itself. Being criticized by people who don’t understand, and being worried themselves that they’ll never accomplish anything is not a great feeling. Until you understand what makes a you tick, the stress can be overwhelming.

So why don’t Scanners do something about it? They do. At least, they try.

Most Scanners really try. Many go to career testing services but, for the most part, the expectation is that they’ll use their greatest talent to follow a path of specialization. But that doesn’t work with a scanner:

“On every aptitude test I come out above average on everything, there is no one outstanding peak - they are all pretty high. This can be really difficult as I never know what to choose.”

Counselors explain that their clients have to choose a direction or they can’t take another step. But Scanners can’t choose one direction. It’s like telling a parent to choose one child to feed. It’s just not possible. A parent will find a way to feed all her children. And a Scanner is driven to follow every path that interests her. There’s nothing else a Scanner can do.

There are at least three reasons for this:

First, Scanners can’t have fewer interests. They’re designed to do more. Holding them back is like tying an athlete to a chair.
One woman said it clearly:

"I need my entire “system” of mind and body to be completely used. I enjoy doing different things at the same time. I feel good when my body is working at its limits. My mind is only happy when I'm learning different things at the same time. If I have to slow down or use only one part of me at a time, I get bored, worse than bored – I feel like a part of me is dying on the vine.”

Second, Scanners don’t want fewer interests. They light up when they see new things and want to investigate them. But, you might protest, we all want 5 desserts after dinner too, but we don’t get them, we grow up, you control ourselves, right? Wrong. Scanners want it all not because they’re spoiled, but for the same reason all your muscles, not just your arms or your legs, want exercise. They love variety because they have brains that process experience quickly and are ready for new subjects sooner than others. They have special abilities in many areas, they’re built to use them. That’s why somewhere inside a Scanner, although they hate to be stuck and don’t know how to justify their behavior, they secretly refuse to choose. They know they’re being stubborn. What they don’t know is that this stubbornness comes from intinctive integrity.

Third, a Scanner sticks his nose into many areas because he can. Scanners are smart and multi-talented, they’re divergent thinkers who don’t want to narrow the universe down to one formula but would rather help expand it. They don't typically need as much stability as most people because they're as secure as small children and just as curious. While most adults find change disruptive, even threatening, scanners thrive on it. They don’t mind being beginners as much as most adults, and while some are driven to master an an interest, as soon as they do, at least to their satisfaction, they're finished with it. The part that mattered to them is over.

What draws a Scanner, and why do they move on before they’re finished? What makes a Scanner tick?

Well, you could say they're a lot like bees when they go after honey.


Whenever someone tells me a scanner lacks focus, loses interest too easily, can’t find their passion or make up their minds what they want to do, I ask them to consider the honeybee. I’m pretty sure no one in his right mind would ever accuse a bee of lacking focus or losing interest too easily. No one says bees can’t make up their minds which flower they want to be involved with or that they seem unable to find their true passion. We assume that when a bee leaves a flower, it’s got a compelling reason to do so. Plain and simple, if it stayed at a flower for two seconds or twenty seconds, we understand it needed that amount of time to get what it came for.

Any bee that stayed at a flower after it had emptied it of nectar would be seen as derelict in its duties. When it comes to passion, I think we’d all agree that a bee seems very dedicated to its task — but it’s not passionate about any one flower, it’s passionate about gathering nectar. If you missed that point, you’d really misunderstand a honeybee.

In his heart every scanner feels the same as a honeybee about what he’s doing. But we’re not in the habit of thinking about it the same way. We simply assume that Scanner's have a problem if they don't devote themselves to a single specialty as long as we believe they should - usually for their adult lifetime or at least until the job is ‘finished.’

But if we don’t know why the Scanner is involved with this subject, we really have no way of knowing when he's finished. We can’t pretend to be helping Scanners to develop their considerable talents unless we’re willing to grant them the same benefit of the doubt we give a honeybee.

Somebody's sure to ask if this is why they get tired of relationships so fast; maybe being a Scanner is the reason they don't want to stick with anyone very long. The short and simple answer to that one, at least in the many cases I've investigated, is no. First, because in each case their are so many other reasons for the problem. Second because many people who ask the question aren't Scanners at all. And third, because I've queried many Scanners and most of them say they want one thing in their lives to be stable -- preferably their source of affection and companionship.

I'll talk more about that another time, but for now, don't bother explaining Tiger Woods' behavior by saying he's a Scanner. No way he's a Scanner :-) And don't fill up the comments with questions about that when I really want to answer other questions about Scanners. Or have I just told you to ignore the elephant in the room. Sigh.

Incidenetally, it never comes up at a Scanner retreat, even the ones we have in France :-) You can find out about the next one at or ask me here.


  1. This was interesting. I think I might be a Scanncer :-)
    Great site.

  2. Thanks. And welcome home, little sister. You're now part of a great extended family of interesting people who have loads of interests and will never criticize you because they know there's nothing wrong with you. Very nice, warm place.

  3. Can't remember the first time I picked up WishCraft, it was so long ago. I'm not sure it stuck back then. You & Wayne Dyer are about the only people I'll sit thru a pledge drive for. Maybe technology had to advance, maybe the stars had to converge. As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And there you were on Twitter. And then there were others - like me. Now I don't feel so lost & alone. Funny how the Universe lays everything out, one pebble at a time, just when we need its guidance most. I've had so much serendipity & so many epiphanies (my son's & my most favorite words) in the last week or two it's getting a little crazy up in my mind.

    Oh, and I have enthusiastically jumped from sewing to knitting, while planning a polymer clay project, anticipating a chain maille tut I ran across, actually continued a blog for a full month, played with BlogTalkRadio podcasts, while thinking about the garden layout for next spring - all without guilt for the first time in my life. I do feel like a bumble bee and I now understand that flitting & flying (my Mom would say with distain that all the time) from one thing to another is just a part of my DNA. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I guess the new year is going to be pretty darn exciting.

    Question: Is it normal scanner behavior to lose steam on the present project close to the end because I'm already getting psyched up & planning for the next project? Although I understand better now since learning about scanners, I still crave to get some solid accomplishments under my belt. That tiny voice (and family members) keep chanting "you never finish anything..." It really dampens my already low self-esteem. I know, I've got to get Refuse to Choose. I'm on the waiting list at the library.

    p.s. Just a note - I think I hate Google & blogger. It's automatically picking up an old, old blogger account I opened, so I have no idea what identity is going to be signed on this post. I even went back to Google and updated my acct. This is my second writing, since it wouldn't let me copy & paste. My present incarnation is Inspired Creatives or inspiredcreativ on twitter (not that you have time to follow this little bee, but I thought I'd throw it out there). So here goes, lets see what identity this post is constricting me to.

  4. Woot. If Google thinks I'm Inspired Creatives, it must be so, right? But nay, not until Google says so.

  5. Well, I've never heard of the term "scanner" before now, except in the context of a grocery store. At any rate, I'm freaking out right now. I'm worried about my future, and I'm feeling forced to make a career path decision. I'm 40, have raised three kids (well, they're teens now so not quite), and I have hundreds of college courses behind me and a bachelor's in Liberal Studies. I've started to go back to school for computer engineering, nursing, law, and education. I actually got my professional teaching license. Now I'm thinking Physical Therapy because I enjoyed my A&P courses and feel I could have stable employment for the first time in my life. But what I really would like to study is Landscape Architecture. And the worst thing is, I really don't want to go back to school. Even more, I'm terrified of another false start. And, I'm not a people person, at least not large groups of people (which is why I am not teaching). But I'm learning Spanish which I just love to read and study. Ugh. I am so frust-rating.