Life planning, purpose

Using the Wheel of Life

The Wheel of life is a tool to help achieve balance in your life – perhaps a helpful antidote to the week of blue Monday!  Here I give an overview of the tool, and you can follow the link below if you’d like to try out one yourself.

The Wheel of Life It takes a 30,000 foot view of your life as a whole, both personal and professional, focussing on how satisfied you are with each area of life.  This can then form the basis for prioritising areas to improve and creating actions to help improve them. 

First, choose your segments

Let’s start with the wheel itself.  It has 8 segments. I have seen one or two with 10, but I find the discipline of having to group or prioritise things into those eight makes you think very carefully about what’s important. There are lots of examples online of different topic area to choose. In general, the areas will cover professional life; relationships; personal health,fulfilment and enjoyment; practical needs (finances, environment); and spirituality, purpose and community.  A common set is: Health, Finance, Significant other/romance; Family & Friends, Recreation/Hobbies; Career; Personal development; and either Physical Environment OR Spirituality OR Contribution to community. Another common change is to split family and friends, or include them in other segments, e.g. with hobbies or community.

When choosing your topics, be guided by what is important to you, whilst covering a wide spectrum of personal and professional needs. You might decide to leave something out because you don’t think it will change in the near future, and it’s not that important to you (for example, perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have enough money, and you don’t think the choices you’ll make in the rest of the wheel will affect this).  It’s unwise, however, to leave something out because you don’t get around to it, or you haven’t yet succeeded in changing it (for example, discarding health because you never manage to go to the gym anyway).

Your choices will also change from year to year, or in busy years, month to month, so don’t be afraid to switch things in and out as your life changes. My current choices are: Short term impact (work); Building purposefully (work); Personal development; Health (physical and mental); Friends and community; Family; Significant other; Household management.

Next, score your life

The next thing to do, is to go around the wheel scoring your life in each of the areas.  There are three common ways to do this:

  1. Score how satisfied you are with that area of your life, picking a number between 0 and 10 where 10 means you are ecstatic and 0 means you hate this part of your life.
  2. Score how good your life is in this area, this time with a 0 to 10 scale where 10 is a perfect life and 0 is a terrible one (taking an objective viewpoint as far as possible). Then mark each area again from 0-10, focussing on where you would be happy for your life to be on the same scale.  The important thing here is the difference between where your life is and where you would like it to be. So for example, two people might score 5 on the ‘significant other’ scale because they’re going on a few dates but don’t have a permanent relationship – but then one person might want to be a 9 (happily married perhaps) and the other might be quite happy as a 5.
  3. Score how good you are in each area of your life, with 10 being perfect/doing great and 0 being rubbish.

Personally I find number 2 a little complex. Both number 2 and number 3 suffer from the issue that you need to somehow create an ‘objective’ measure of what goodness is on this scale.  Number 1, I find, is a simple way to capture how well you’re doing based upon your own subjective measure of what good is.  Since this is primarily meant as a tool to help you prioritise your own goals, rather than a tool for others to judge, it is your personal view that matters.

At the end of this exercise, you should end up with a wheel of life that looks a bit like the example above.

Take action

You can imagine the wheel as though it was on a vehicle. You’d like it to be as smooth as possible: that is, with all areas at a reasonable level of satisfaction. Wildly different scores for each segment could lead to a rather bumpy ride. Take note of areas which score particularly poorly, and ask yourself how you could improve them. Set yourself S.M.A.R.T. action points, and follow through, ideally one segment at a time until a new habit has been established. As always with diagnostic tools, the wheel of life helps you identify areas of weakness or dissatisfaction, but it is your determination in taking action to improve the situation which will really make the difference.  

Check in

Finally, revisit the wheel on a regular basis, perhaps as part of a monthly or 6-monthly planning process, if you have one. Ask yourself if the actions you’re taking are improving things, and if not, think of other things to try.  And, of course, take pleasure in the areas with high scores – you’re doing well!

If you’d like to try your hand at a Wheel of Life, you can use the OxLaunch Wheel of Life tool to create and download your own wheel.