Scanner personality type

On being a “scanner” personality (Scanner series I) | by Sebastian Martin

Photo by Steve Huntington on Unsplash

Refusing to choose one single activity

(Update February 2021: I’ve learned a lot of things since I published this article in 2018 and there are three new posts with more insights here:

On Being a scanner personality (Scanner Series I) (you are here)

6 Strengths of being a scanner personality (Scanner series II)

5 Patterns and tips for scanner personalities (Scanner series III)

4 challenges of my scanner personality that I still encounter regularly (Scanner series IV)


One of the most important mental shifts I have experienced in the last year was reading a book by US author Barbara Sher called “Refuse to Choose!: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love”.

I came across it after a friend liked a review on Facebook and it sounded intriguing.

Essentially, the book is about a personality type that Sher calls “scanners”. Scanners are people who like to explore everything, try out many different careers and, as the title suggests, who “refuse to choose”.

A scanner type personality has a hard time focusing on one single occupation, hobby or career. There are too many interesting other choices! Scanners often start with one activity, only to lose interest in it after a short time. This has nothing to do with ADHS (attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome).

People suffering from ADHS can’t concentrate on a single thing while they are doing it.

Scanners burn for a range of things and pursue them with passion and energy. But they often don’t keep at it for longer than a few days or weeks at a time.

Scanners have the ultimate “fear of missing out” on life. They are equally fascinated by quantum physics, ancient Roman societies, obscure languages, and developments in web technology. scanners would like to do everything at once or, at least do everything at least once.

I should know, I find myself to be this exact type of person. Reading the book introduced a powerful mental model, even though it sounds counter-intuitive and counter-”everything others have been telling you”.

Sher states that Scanners excel at starting and learning. They derive pleasure from finding out how things work. They love planning, thinking, juggling ideas.

My main takeaway from this book is: “you have no obligation to finish every single thing you start”.

But wait, isn’t this the opposite of “done is better than perfect”, “fail forward”, “finish early and often”?

Yes and no.

Yes, because Scanners collect unfinished projects like others collect shoes.

Offices are full of special books on a wide range of topics. You have software for making music, 3D models, maps and learning Mandarin.

No, because the goal is never mastery of a topic, scanners don’t aim to be masters of what they start. It’s not about completion. It’s about starting.

Unfortunately, scanners are often unhappy with their activities, because the general consensus is “finish what you started”.

It’s a mantra that parents tell their kids, teachers tell their students and it is expected in a professional context. It makes sense if you need to have results. In your job, if you work for others, you work FOR OTHERS. You start and finish FOR OTHERS.

What about yourself? What about the things you do FOR YOURSELF?

At the beginning of the last year, I was unhappy. On the job, I wanted to go home to pursue my interests, but at home, I had little energy left.

Plus, I didn’t know where to start: working on one the many story ideas?


Building a startup on the side?

Making music and if so, choose guitar, keyboard, synthesizer program?

Continue on developing a game or the website that I talked about with a friend?

Start a meetup and a new online community for creatives?

Go out and take pictures or start editing the thousands of pictures from the last vacation?

I felt that I needed to finish all the things I started. I felt pressure and negative emotions because if I had started, I needed to finish. That’s what you do, right?

Maybe not.

If you are a scanner like me, enjoying the act of discovery and learning is all the payoff you need from that activity. I had the idea of “you are not allowed to do something unless you invest a lot of time and finish it.”

I have lots of ideas for stories, books, novels: some of them consist of a single sentence, others are worlds full of characters, plot lines, descriptions of surroundings. Maybe none of them will ever be written. That’s OK.

I can now allow myself to think about story ideas that would make great novels without having the need to write it. The act of creating the world and thinking about possibilities gives me enough joy. I do like writing (obviously) and I’m coming back to one story, in particular, adding a few lines every few weeks.

Ultimately, I’m now much more at ease with my ideas.

I have a red book called my project book, into which I just write my ideas. I think about them as long and hard as I like, sometimes it’s a few sentences, sometimes it’s 2 pages of dense text.

The ideas, projects, and visions are there. My work is done, I have no obligation to ever finish them, bring them to life or act upon them. I know perfectly well that if I really wanted to see my book sold online or in retail, I would sit down and write it. I have no problem to finish projects — especially not for others.

A different word for scanners are “polymaths” — people who have a variety of interests and knowledge on a range of topics. The idea has come out of style in times where specialization is hailed as the ultimate key. But there is no use ignoring our instincts. If you are a scanner, embrace it. It will make you happier.

As always, thanks for reading. Are you a scanner, too? How do you feel about it? Let me know.

(Update February 2021: I’ve learned a lot of things since I published this article in 2018 and there is a new post with more insights here: https://sebastianmartin2044.

6 Strengths of being a scanner personality (Scanner series II) | by Sebastian Martin

Photo by Eddy Klaus on Unsplash

In 2018, I discovered the idea of a certain personality type, one called “scanner” or “multipotentialite” by various authors.

On Being a scanner personality (Scanner Series I)

6 Strengths of being a scanner personality (Scanner series II) (you are here)

5 Patterns and tips for scanner personalities (Scanner series III)

4 challenges of my scanner personality that I still encounter regularly (Scanner series IV)

Quick recap: what is a scanner (multipotentialite, polymath) personality? John Williams from the business/ entrepreneur company “The Ideas Lab” sums it up nicely:

Do you have varied interests that don’t often group together very neatly?

Do you have more ideas than you can possibly execute in one lifetime?

Do you find that you love learning the gist of something — you get just into a topic and then as soon as you’ve got a feel for it you move on to something completely different?

Do you find the idea of a one-track conventional career absolutely horrifying?

Do you find that you are better at starting things and not so great at finishing them?

Since writing that original article in 2018, I’ve changed my career from web (graphic) designer to innovation architect to communication trainer to web developer and, as of last year, to full-stack developer. My day job now consists of developing web apps and backend services, and I’ve gone back to being a full-time employee after several years of self-employment.

Throughout all this, I’ve been able to embrace my scanner personality as a strength and be proud of my variety of hobbies and skills.

In this article, I would like to share what I’ve learned or developed in the last years regarding seeing myself as a “scanner” personality type.

You have a sense of wonder about the world.

Really, next to learning, a core strength of a scanner is curiosity and wonder about the world. I find myself marveling at so many topics, the infinite depths of human creativity, quirkiness, and weirdness.

It often gives me strength to find that we can, in general, create the most wonderful melodies, the most stunning artworks, the most meaningful poems — and at the same time, be playful about life, encapsulate emotions in songs, and laugh at stupid memes.

Seeing this diversity feels freeing and hopeful — to the point where I can be resilient and brave in challenging times. Humans are amazing, and with a scanner mindset you’ll train yourself to find evidence of this every day.

You’re really good at learning new things.

Scanners are, by trait, constantly learning, researching, reading about a variety of topics. There is as much interesting knowledge in history (ancient Sumerian culture maybe?) as there is in obscure programming languagesand the latest in breakcore metal music.

Constantly learning also often means that scanners develop effective ways of getting into a new topic. I’ve found that I look for systemic overviews of new topics; I can then structure my quest for knowledge in a way that makes sense to me. In doing this, I don’t just follow procedure from A to B, but find out why A exists and why B exists and why I need to get there!

You’re always asking why

Maybe it’s just me, but knowledge is more than just information. Truly useful knowledge — wisdom, almost — comes from asking “why?” more than anything else. Why are things the way they are? The more you “scan”, the more you can compare and see patterns. Why are companies organized one way, but armies in a different way, and national governments in another way again?

You’ll start to see topics, tropes — the big picture. This can be incredibly useful to make deeper sense of the world around you.

You’re being innovative

One of the hallmark principles of innovation is synthesis: connecting previously distinct ideas to form a new product, service, or way of life. Implementing this type of innovation into daily life and job can create a distinct advantage and lead to more satisfying, useful, and sustainable solutions.

It’s also a major driver for art, where we always explore the combinations of different ideas. The ability to have a flexible mind that can hold many different, even conflicting ideas and examine them is definitely helpful in our modern world.

You’re open to change

As a scanner, you are used to starting new things. This ability to adapt is extremely useful in a rapidly changing world. Sadly I’ve found that many people rebel against even small changes, because they find adapting to new realities energy-intensive and risky.

Sure, as I’ve grown a bit older I don’t jump on any newest bandwagon and hype train anymore, but I can still get started on new programs, apps or topics fairly quickly. Scanners don’t mind change in their lives (even externally mandated, such as new software at work). This ability helps to live a slightly more independent life — you don’t panic if your phone OS changes and your settings are now located in a different app. You simply learn anew.

Change is a part of everyone’s life. As a scanner, you’re able to adopt, improvise, and overcome challenges more quickly, hopefully giving you a less stressful life.

You good at communicating between disciplines

As generalists, you can often communicate well between disciplines, making yourself understood to the involved parties. One advantage of having previously worked as a web designer and having learned about user experience is that I can use those concepts in programming.

At the same time, I understand the needs of both coders and designers so that I can effectively explain design decisions to my peers and talk about programming restraints with designers. There are many other roles where this understanding of various needs comes in handy!

Thanks for reading! Let me know what other strengths you find in being a scanner personality!

90,000 All people were divided into scanners and divers. And this will help you understand why your work is not going well / AdMe

Life coach and famous speaker Barbara Sher divides people into 2 types - divers (those who like to study a topic in detail) and scanners (those who need a little bit of everything ). In her book, which became a bestseller, she tells how it is necessary for one and the other to act in order to achieve what they want.

ADME figured out the difference between scanners and divers and figured out what to do with both to reach their maximum potential.


Divers like to explore a particular topic in detail. They prefer to dive into uncharted depths and will not rest until they touch all the pebbles and see all the fish. Divers are potential careerists because they like to be masters of their craft and they are always eager to reach the end. They really get high, learning more and more details and expanding their knowledge in the process of their chosen topic.


You are a diver if:

  • You like to explore a topic from cover to cover...and a little more.
  • You could do the same thing all your life.
  • You need more skills in your area of ​​work. Even more!

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  • You want people to consider you a good specialist.
  • Doing several things at the same time? God save!


  • You often feel like you still haven't fully explored a topic.
  • Long-term goals don't scare you.
  • You are often afraid to take on something new because you think you don't have the skills to do it.

© depositphotos

How to realize yourself if you are a diver?

At the beginning of their journey, divers often suffer from the fear of making a mistake and choosing not what they really need. At this point, the diver can easily be confused with the scanner .

The thought that they did not study the topic of interest and did not bring it to its logical conclusion haunts divers like a piece of bread from our childhood.

© depositphotos

  • Change your vision. Treat failures as an additional incentive for development. Only by continuing to do something until the very moment when we learn it, one can develop self-confidence.
  • Try to find out the reason why you quit what you started, what exactly is stopping you. Then write down the sequence of your feelings. Once you write down all the steps (from getting an idea to the moment when you want to quit), you will understand that this is just one of the points on the way to your completed business. It just needs to be overcome.
  • Remember that you must always return to work, because the best medicine for a diver is to keep doing something until he becomes a real master of his craft.


Scanners are individuals who do not stop at one thing, they are in love with life and constantly “scan” everything around them in search of things that are interesting to them. “The more, the better” is the motto of scanners.

Scanners are the opposite of divers and often feel miserable in trying to fit into the accepted standards of our world.

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  • Yesterday it seemed to you that nothing could be better than this, but today it already infuriates you wildly.
  • And the Swiss, and the reaper, and the player on the pipe - this is about you.
  • You get bored when you understand how it works.

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  • From time to time you get discouraged, because "everyone around has found his calling, except for me."
  • You work in a low-paying job (or several at once) because you can't decide what interests you more.
  • Your interests are constantly changing.

© depositphotos, © depositphotos

  • You keep giving up.
  • It is difficult for you to do one thing for a long time, the so-called everyday life is killing you.
  • You are productive only when you have several things to do at the same time.

© depositphotos

How to realize yourself if you are a scanner?

The biggest problem for scanners is that they think they don't have enough time. Therefore, they are always in an eternal rush, afraid to miss something. This feeling in the soul of the scanner borders on hysteria, so he believes that every precious and such a fleeting minute of his life should be a fountain of emotions and impressions. That is why it is very important that the scanner recognizes that he has more than enough time and that this time will be enough for all his interests.

© depositphotos

You can do this exercise.

  • Imagine that you are not one person, but 10 (or more). Write on a piece of paper what each of these people would then do (musician, poet, businessman, husband / wife, etc.).
  • Sort your "10 lives" by answering the following questions:
  1. Which of the 10 lives can I devote next year?
  2. What next life can I live when I am realized in the first life?
  3. What can I do every day for 20 minutes (or less)?
  4. What activities from the entire list can I do on weekends?
  5. What can I do from time to time?
  • Make a quick 3-year plan. Specify when and what you would like to do.
  • Write a plan for your life. It should be in a conspicuous place at your house so that, looking at it, you clearly understand that, for example, for the next 3 months you devote yourself to music, and the next six months to business.

Naturally, your list will be adjusted, you will add, for example, master classes, meetings with friends or family vacations. But the overall integrity of the picture and the feeling that there is plenty of time for all your favorite things will allow you not to jump from place to place, not be distracted and achieve great results.

Are you a scanner or a diver by nature?

Preview photo credit depositphotos, depositphotos

Bright Side/Psychology/All people were divided into scanners and divers. And it will help you understand why you are not doing well at work

Scanner people: how to find your purpose for someone who loves to try new things

April 28, 2015InspirationBooks archeology, real estate and, in general, how these bongos are played?! If this person reminds you of yourself, congratulations: you are a typical "scanner". What is it and how to live with it - says Barbara Sher, one of the main motivational speakers in the world.



What is going on?

So, you are a born "scanner" - a person who enjoys the diversity around us. Often people-scanners feel that time is passing by, and they have not achieved anything yet. Didn't become a professional at anything. It seems that already without five minutes an expert in one area, and then another begins to interest. Peers who have fewer talents and opportunities have moved far ahead, and the “scanner” is still at the start.

If so, you just don't realize yet that being a "scanner" is a worthy calling. It is a talent and the key to a good life.

Scanners want to try everything. They study flower structure and music theory with equal enthusiasm. They love to travel and are interested in politics. For "scanners" the Universe is a treasure trove, where millions of works of art are stored, and it is unlikely that there will be enough life to see them all.

Because our culture values ​​specialization and determination, we all too often think that "scanners" are people who just don't want to do their job properly and scatter around. This stereotype.

Get everything at once

Often the only problem "scanners" have is to find a job where their specific talent can be used. Career guidance tests are usually useless for "scanners". It takes time and ingenuity to find a niche for them - a job that will accommodate all of their many interests. But the results are worth it.

"Scanners" can be poets, documentary makers, travelers, great salespeople, good managers and teachers. And even combine several of these roles at the same time.

Get everything in sequence

Scanners are often distracted, in part because they are in a rush. But there is no hurry, because:

  • there is more time than it seems;
  • haste is unproductive;
  • "time fever" spoils life. This is a kind of hysteria, because of which everyone believes that you need to do something important for the future every minute. Don't give in to her. There is time. And it will definitely be enough to understand yourself and find your calling (or several callings at the same time).

There is much more time than you imagine. You will get everything if you are calm and consistent.

Some exercises for typical "scanners"

1. Ten lives

If you had 10 lives, how would you use them? Take a pencil, a piece of paper and write down what you would do in each of these lives. If you have more than 10 professions in your head, then please! Don't limit yourself to anything. Now let's look at this list. He may look like this: a poet, a musician, a successful entrepreneur, a sinologist, a cook in a gourmet restaurant, a traveler, a gardener, a husband and father, a journalist, a talk show host.

Excellent! You don't have to choose one profession. You will soon find a way to live each of these lives.

2. Available time

Quickly answer the following questions about each of your lives. Don't think too long. Write down the first thing that comes to mind. (You can use the same life multiple times.)

What kind of life would you give in 2016? What kind of life will you live second? What can you do every day for 20 (or less) minutes? What about on weekends? What can you do from time to time?

Answering these questions will give you a more realistic idea of ​​how people do things if they are "Renaissance people" like you. Maybe you will stop thinking in terms of either-or: “How can I give up everything and devote myself to poetry and learn Chinese and play the violin so that there is still time for business and travel? Yes, and also learn how to cook haute cuisine and gardening?”

Here's how: don't devote yourself to poetry. Just write poetry.

Write one line before going to bed, and suddenly you wake up very early and want to write more. If the poem captures you, set aside everything else. And in a few days you will finish it. And then you may not want to write poetry for another month. When will you take violin lessons? How about next summer?

The point is that you can do everything if you make the right schedule.

If you want to start a business, but also see the world, you can combine it or implement it sequentially: business now, then travel.

3. Make a fast-paced three-year plan

Many "scanners" think that there is very little time, and if you do not do something right now, then there will simply not be time in the future. Relax: there is enough time for all your many “lives”. You have more time than you think.

In order to calm down, you need to make a fast-acting plan for three years. Once you understand that you can conquer new lives step by step, you will calm down.

4. Draw a map of your life

Look back at your past. Perhaps a map of your life could look like this: in 2008 you took up mountaineering, in 2009 you were fascinated by antiques, in 2010 you started playing the violin, in 2011 you got a job in the radio, and so on. For a year you went to the cinema constantly, and then for two years you didn’t go at all? You know, perhaps this is the most correct way to live. You need to learn to respect the wisdom of your natural instincts, because they allow you to perfectly fit into life everything that you need.

And a final piece of advice

If you realize that you are a "scanner" after all, do nothing to change yourself. Do not think that you have to break yourself to the demands of this world.

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