For the longest time, I considered my chaotic, unfocused, and somewhat nonsensical way of life a diagnosis rather than a lifestyle. I was never (and likely never will be) satisfied with a singular hobby, passion, or career.
In summary, I like too many things, and my definition of like is most likely different from most. "Like" for me comes with an intensity usually followed up by a lot of time, money, and a gratuitous accumulation of things.
Ideas spring into my mind so often that they're like mosquitos in the middle of June. The worst part is, ideas are never small. They're always big and demanding of my energy, time and attention.
Chances are, if you're not like me, you know someone who is. We're not subtle. Piles of items from each previous endeavor tend to fill our houses, along with stacks of how-to books and endless collections. Our interests line walls. We know a little (or sometimes a lot) about a lot and are never minimalists.
I can't speak for others, but I know that I am the most annoying person in my life. I've tried reasoning with myself.
Just pick a thing. It doesn't mean the end of everything else. Make a career of it. Everyone does it.
But this new idea is the one!
You said that last time, though…
But this one's different, I swear!
You also said that last time…
I became desperate, and I did as desperate people do and consulted Reddit. Sure enough, someone else had already posted my thoughts.
"How do I pick a career when I like too many things?"
In the answers to that post, I discovered that not only had someone already coined a word for my kind, they had written a whole book about it.
Barbara Sher is my personal savior (may she rest in peace). She wrote a book acknowledging the modern plight of those of us who are deeply interested in too many things⏤ Those of us who consider commitment to a singular passion to be a prison sentence. She lovingly calls us "Scanners" because we're always "Scanning the horizon for the next thing."
Her book is called Refuse to Choose! and might as well be required reading for anyone who rotates through interests like they're going out of style.
This book would be great for a friend who's researching bats and contemplating a job in conservation, but they're afraid it would interfere with their hobby of glass-blowing.
Or for the brother-in-law who bought everything for micro-brewing, made a successful batch of beer, and now he's breeding dogs and taking up hang-gliding.
Or for the sister who's been deeply invested in saltwater aquariums but is somehow equally invested in oil painting, cooking, and swimming and has dreams of being a historian.
This is the book for them. But be warned, this is not a book that suggests discipline, but the opposite. Sher's suggestion to fellow Scanners is to embrace our ideas, respect them and pursue them. Which is great for the soul, but likely hard on the wallet. Just know that by giving this book, you're encouraging the endless curiosity that's already happening, which might mean more clutter in your house if your gift receiver lives with you.
Sher gives the reader permission to pursue all of the things and even goes as far as to tell us to take pride in who we are, our ideas, and how we owe it to the world to pursue them in full. She argues that throughout most of humanity's history, Scanners were highly valued and that it was normal to be fully invested in a multitude of things. Only now, she explains, has a recent shift towards specialization taken place.
Though some of her tips may be out of date (if you follow everything she says you'll be purchasing an entire office supply store), they are big steps to a productive life that looks a little different than most but is fulfilling all the same.
Maybe your spouse, best friend, or sibling is like me. I imagine we can sometimes be hard to live with. Our ideas are mammoth, fleeting and clutter-accumulating. If so, I can't recommend this book enough. To really double down on the acceptance of your loved one's hobby-collecting, you could also buy what Sher calls a "Daybook."
A Daybook is a nice, hardcover book filled with completely blank pages - no lines, no grids, no boundaries for new ideas. It's a respectable place where a Scanner's ideas can go, and live there forever so as not to get lost as the next new idea arrives. It's a great starting point for feeling good about new ideas instead of frustration.
Be sure there are tons of pages for tons of ideas.
As an added bonus, a Daybook spares loved ones from having to pretend to be excited about the next big idea. So if you're on the receiving end of weekly excitement for the next life-changing idea, a Daybook is really a gift to you too.
I personally believe Barbara Sher's book and a "Daybook" are necessary additions to any stack of DIY books or random nonfiction that inhabits a Scanner's home. It's a gift that says "I support you," and believe me, we need all the support we can get. We're out here getting on our own nerves.