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Barbara Sher: Having Many Interests Is Not a Disorder

Barbara Sher

Do you have a wide range of passionate interests, even “too many”? Maybe you have never “settled down” into a well-defined career. Maybe you think you have ADHD – and maybe you do, but you may really be what Barbara Sher refers to as a Scanner.

In her video below, she notes it may not be the best term, and there are others such as “Polymath,” “Renaissance Soul,” or pejorative ones like “Dilettante.”

In her book “Refuse to Choose!” she lists a number of ways we may think about having so many interests – including some self-limiting judgments:

“I can never stick to anything.”

“I get bored as soon as I know how to do something.”

“I keep changing my mind about what I want to do and end up doing nothing.”

“I work at low-paying jobs because there’s nothing I’m willing to commit to.”

“I can’t pay attention unless I’m doing many things at once.”

“I pull away from what I’m doing because I’m afraid I’ll miss something better.”

“I’ll never be an expert in anything. I feel like I’m always in a survey class.”

Sher writes:

“If you’ve ever said these things to yourself, chances are good that you’re a Scanner, a very special kind of thinker.

“Unlike those people who seem to find and be satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to be interested in many things, and that’s exactly what you’ve been trying to do.”

She warns, “Because your behavior is unfamiliar — even unsettling — to the people around you, you’ve been taught that you’re doing something wrong and you must try to change.

“But what you’ve been told is a mistake — you have been misdiagnosed. You’re a different creature altogether.

“What you’ve assumed is a disability to be overcome by sheer will is actually an exceptional gift. You are the owner of a remarkable, multitalented brain trying to do its work in a world that doesn’t understand who you are and doesn’t know why you behave as you do.”

Video: Introduction To Scanners

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Books by Barbara Sher include:

Refuse To Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams.

It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now.

I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was.

Some related articles on this topic:

I Want To Do It All: Creative Polymathy.
One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from a number of years ago by actor Abigail Breslin: “I want to do wardrobe. I want to do hair. I want to do makeup. I want to do writing. I want to do directing. And I want to do producing. I want to do all of it. I like it.“

Multitalented: So Many Choices.
One of the myths of creative and “Unlike those people who seem to find and be satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to be interested in many things may be that they can choose whatever personal and career paths they want. Having many interests and abilities can make for a rich and satisfying life, but also be a source of stress, especially at crossroads like choosing college majors.

Underutilized Talents, Too Many Aptitudes.
One kind of “dilemma” is articulated by actor Emma Watson: “The difficulty for me is that I’m interested in so many different things. I could never really imagine myself doing one thing.”

Interested In So Many Things: Creative and Multitalented.
Creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, “If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.”

Resources For Multi-Passionate Entrepreneurs.
Emilie Wapnick possibly originated the term “multipotentialite” and developed her Renaissance Business system “for the Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur.”

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Barbara Sher: Having Many Interests Is Not a Disorder


Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2015). Barbara Sher: Having Many Interests Is Not a Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/creative-mind/2015/09/barbara-sher-having-many-interests-is-not-a-disorder/

 

Last updated: 3 Sep 2015
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