Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming when it comes to setting goals for self-improvement. And sometimes, we may be dissatisfied about certain aspects about our lives but being in denial of that will prevent us from setting positive nurturing goals. This is where a very popular life coaching tool called Wheel of Life comes handy.
The Wheel of Life is an excellent foundation exercise that will help you create more balance and sense of achievement in your life. This tool was originally created by Paul J Meyer (founder of Success Motivation Institute Inc). It is a very popular tool amongst life coaches and I first learned about it while reading the book Brilliant Life by Michael Heppell. And, No, this is not related to the Buddhist Wheel of Life. Instead, this Wheel of Life gives you a bird’s eye view of your life and will help you identify and improve areas of your life that need more attention.
This vivid representation of your satisfaction with life is called the “Wheel of Life” because each area of your life is mapped like the spokes of a wheel on a circle. You can do this in 3 easy steps.
STEP #1 SETUP THE WHEEL OF LIFE
Setting up the wheel is easy. Even before you even get to drawing part, the first step would be to grab a pencil and paper or open a text editor on your computer and list down 6-8 most important areas in your life. This can be roles you play in your life too (for example, spouse, parent, child, manager, community leader, employee).
I have a favourite list of eight and here are the areas I have got written down.
1. Spirituality and Contribution
This area reflects your inner world – your inner beauty and your inner peace. This can mean different things for different people. For me, this area evaluates my personal connection with my God. It also helps me evaluate what contribution in terms of energy, time and money I am giving back to the society.
2. Health and Fitness
This area reflects your physical body. It evaluates your eating habits, exercise, sleeping habits, stress and energy levels.
3. Personal Development and Self-Esteem
This area reflects the mental side. It evaluates how much you love yourself and also what you are doing to improve and empower yourself. This area helps you evaluate your self-esteem and also will push you out of your comfort zone to learn new things and explore new experiences.
4. Relationships and Social Life
This area reflects your emotional side. It evaluates your relationships across all categories – romance, friendship, family commitments, making new friends, being a team player and emotional IQ.
5. Career or Business
This area reflects your mission. It could be your career or your business or even the one thing you throw your life at like art, sports, academics or home management.
6. Finance AND LIFESTYLE
This area reflects your financials – your income, expenditure, investments and debt management. I also evaluate my lifestyle choices in this area.
7. Physical Environment
This area reflects your environment – home, car, office room/desk etc and your personal appearance. It evaluates how organised you are and how you keep you and your environment comfortable and safe.
8. Fun and Recreation
This area reflects your fun side. It evaluates if you are managing your stress levels, doing something outside your work and being re-energised. I also evaluate my creativity under this category.
If you have very specific areas say for example travelling or blogging, feel free to include them as separate areas too. It is your Wheel of Life – so you get to choose the area you want on it!
Draw the Wheel
Once you have got your list, take a large plain paper (preferably an A4-size paper) and draw a big circle. Then, draw spokes in the circle to denominate each of the areas. Finally, write down the areas on the diagram – one next to each spoke of the wheel of life.
Then mark 9 dashes on each of the spokes. The dashes will act as your scorer with 0 being in the centre of the circle and 10 being at the outside. If you want to go for a simpler version you can just put 4 dashes and start with a 1-5 points wheel of life.
Lazy to Draw?
I use a spreadsheet to do my wheel of life. I can reuse it whenever I want to and it saves me. If you are interested in having this, please leave me a note with your email address and I will be happy to share it with you.
STEP #2 ASSESS YOUR LIFE
This is the step where you do all the soul-searching. I usually use the 5 points version and do it in two rounds.
Round A: Feelings
Score each area based on how you feel.
- 0 Points – I never mark anything 0. That would be like giving up on me!
- 1 Point – Discontented and have not focussed on this area at all
- 2 Points – Discontented and doing something about it
- 3 Points – Feeling content but can make improvements
- 4 Points – Feeling content and working on it!
- 5 Points – Totally satisfied!
Round B: Facts
Double check the scores with the facts
I usually keep a cheat sheet with some questions I ask myself for each area. Of course, you can make these questions as deep as you want – I do and it benefits me.
After Round B, you can re-adjust the scores. (Confession: Sometime when I am in a very pessimistic mood, I mark most things down as a 2 or a 3 in Round A. And then in Round B I realise not everything is wrong with my life and it gives me a new perspective about my life.)
Once you have marked your scores, join the dots and you will get a picture that looks like a spider-web.
Here are some simple ones that you can start off with.
1. SPIRITUALITY AND CONTRIBUTION
- Am I spending time in prayer and meditation regularly?
- Have I contributed my time and/or money (anonymously) to better someone else’s life and/or to make this world a better place to live in?
- Am I feeling at peace with myself right now?
- Am I taking some time for “just me” regularly?
2. HEALTH AND FITNESS
- Am I exercising regularly?
- Am I eating healthy?
- Am I getting enough sleep and keeping up good energy levels during the day?
- Am I treating my body right – like a temple and not a garbage can?
3. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT AND SELF-ESTEEM
- Do I love myself right now?
- Have I learned something new this month?
- Have I tried something new or different this month?
- Have I spend quality time reading or watching documentaries or attending a course this month?
4. RELATIONSHIPS AND SOCIAL LIFE
- Do I show my love to my spouse and do I feel loved by my spouse?
- Do I spend quality time with my family and friends?
- Do I have a close circle of friends who form an emotional support system?
- Have I spent time to connect up with some of my old friends or made a new friend?
5. CAREER OR BUSINESS
- Do I love what I do? (Do I have the Monday Morning Blues?)
- Is my career in alignment with my mission or purpose in life and does it give me a sense of identity?
- Does my career provide for my financial needs?
- Does my career provide me opportunities to advance myself?
6. FINANCE AND LIFESTYLE
- Am I living within my means (i.e. are the expenses paid regularly without incurring debt)?
- Am I saving for a rainy day or making an investment for the future?
- Am I living a lifestyle I love?
- Am I reducing my debt (if you are already in any debt)?
7. PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
- Is my home comfortable, organised and aesthetic?
- Is my car comfortable and safe?
- Is my workspace comfortable and organised?
- Is my appearance neat and tidy?
8. FUN AND RECREATION
- Am I enjoying being me?
- Am I having fun by being silly and/or spontaneous?
- Am I being creative?
- Do I have an active hobby?
STEP #3 REFLECT AND TAKE ACTION
Now you have a visual representation of your life and this next step is to reflect on the results. Focus on the areas that you scored the highest. Smile. Focus on the areas that you scored the least. Smile again… you have received your moment of clarity!
I usually write down the highest and lowest scorers and then ask myself these questions.
- Highest Scorer: What can I continue to do to maintain this satisfaction?
- Lowest Scorer: What can I start or stop doing to improve my satisfaction in this area?
The answers to these questions help me set my goals for the week, the month, the quarter or the year.
Few lessons I learned from my reflection times are:
- I recommend keeping a journal or using a website like 750words.com to capture your thoughts and answers to the questions.
- When you start off doing the Wheel of Life, do it every fortnight and set yourself smaller goals spanning a month. Then, as you find yourself progressing with your goals, you can reduce the frequency of doing the Wheel of Life. I would still recommend doing this at least once in 6 months.
- You may be overspending your time and energy on one area at the cost of another. (Confession: There are weeks I find that my career feels like a 5 and my relationships feel like a 1. Nasty, but true! That’s when some of you get those weird phone calls from me saying “I was just thinking of you… blah blah…”. But hey, it means that you are someone I genuinely care about and don’t want to lose touch with!)
- If you have scored 5/5 for the 3rd time in a row in a particular area – Great Job! And don’t stop doing what is keeping it great unless it is impacting another area in your life.
- There are various aspects that could be affecting your score. For example, under relationships you have your relationship with your spouse or significant other and friends. Give equal weightage to these areas so you are well balanced within your relationship area. Being married is not an excuse to ignore your friends and making new friends is not an excuse to dump your old ones. So do not mark yourself a 5 just because your marriage is going strong, consider the other relationships too.
- You may find a few areas have gone down to a 1 or a 2. But the root cause may be just one area. For example, if you have been laid off (or if you are generally feeling that your salary is below your expectations), you will be tempted to score a few areas poorly – Career, Finance and sometimes even Fun. In these situations, identify the root cause and focus on that first. If not having a job is what is bothering you but you have saved up something for rainy days, you don’t have to score down the Finance area. Or if you are worried about the money rather than the job, then the focus should be on what else can be done to bring in additional sources of income.
- Your time and energy are a limited supply. So you will need to choose wisely which areas you want to focus on. Sometimes I have multiple areas at 2 or 3 and I will struggle to choose between them. In these situations, I choose the one I feel the most dissatisfied about but I know I can do something about it in the next one month to fix it.
- If you have scored less than 2/5 for a particular area for the 3rd time in 3 weeks/months, then cheat a little – meaning, reframe your questions. (Confession: I fare very poorly in my Health area “regularly”. So I changed my questions to simpler ones. For example, instead of “Do I drink at least 8 cups of water a day?” I started with “Do I have at least 4 cups of water a day?” I build the momentum and once I got a better score, I started asking the tougher questions.)
I will be writing a lot more about goal getting this month based on what worked and did not work for me over the last few years. So please do check out my other articles on this topic here.