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Excerpted from Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. Copyright © 2006 by Barbara Sher. Excerpted by permission of Rodale, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"What I learned about myself eventually is that I knew deep down what I should be doing all along, but was simply too scared to commit myself to it."

  Barbara Sher, Refuse to Choose, Part 2

Who isn't a Scanner?

Well, specialists aren't Scanners, obviously. If you're someone who is happy being completely absorbed by one field, I've labeled you a Diver. Some clear examples of Divers are professional musicians, scientists, mathematicians, professional chess players, athletes, business owners, and 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."

By contrast, Scanners rarely think what other people are doing is empty. They're always curious to know "what's out there" and love to poke their noses into just about anything. A Diver rarely spends a moment wondering what he might be missing when he's totally absorbed in his field. On the other hand, 99 percent of Scanners spend a lot of time scanning the horizon, thinking about their next move.

Many people look like Scanners, but aren't

People who continually move from one idea to another often have very different reasons for doing so. Some are simply trying to make up their minds, and when they find the "right" choice, they can easily give up all the other ideas they considered.

Others move between ideas for reasons that surprised me when I first heard them. Here are some examples.

I spent years frustrating myself and everyone around me with my constant jumping from one thing to another. What I learned about myself eventually is that I knew deep down what I should be doing all along, but was simply too scared to commit myself to it. The constant stream of alternative ideas was simply an advanced avoidance technique.

I think I've always avoided what I really want to do because I was afraid Id be mediocre, or fail completely, so I'd keep changing my mind before I produced anything that could be judged.

Depressed people often make the mistake of believing they're Scanners. Depression can create a fractured consciousness that doesn't allow one to pay attention to anything for long, and some depressed people believe that the cause of their depression is their inability to find something they can care about intensely. But the reverse is usually true: They can't care about anything because they're depressed. One of the main symptoms of depression is the inability to feel desire. A woman who had experience with depressed people told me:

The types of attention span problems that have to do with depression are quite different than job-interest attention spans. When you get so you can't read a book (and even newspaper articles are too complicated to remember from start to finish), you can't pay attention during a conversation, and you have no idea where your keys and wallet are when usually you know exactly where you put them, then you need to talk to somebody about therapy and medication, both of which work wonders.

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