Have you ever felt that your life is out of kilter?
While some areas receive all of your attention, others get none. Perhaps your career is on track, but you no longer have time for your family and friends, or your work is unfulfilling, and you are not growing or learning.
You are not alone. Harmony in life—relationships, career, health, spirituality, finances, and beyond—is hard to achieve, and seemingly impossible to maintain.
Achieving a balanced existence is essential.
After all, your mental wellbeing is underpinned by finding high levels of meaning within your daily tasks and activities. If the many aspects of your being find balance, then life satisfaction, the fulfillment of basic psychological needs, and contentment usually follow (Eakman, 2016).
So, how do you find balance in your life?
Well, often, what holds people back is a lack of conscious awareness regarding their lifestyle.
Life coaching can help by focussing on where you are now and where you want to be.
In this article, we look at the Wheel of Life, a tool that continues to prove popular in life coaching and self-help. It offers enormous insight into aspects of your being that are flourishing or struggling and helps guide you to the changes needed to remove barriers and push forward.
Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
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What is the Wheel of Life?
Being overwhelmed—unable to connect and balance the essential dimensions of your life— can leave you feeling out of control and unsatisfied.
But how does it happen?
According to an article appearing in the Journal of Occupational Science, your life moves out of balance “when the fulfillment of basic psychological needs has been thwarted within ongoing patterns of day-to-day occupations,” and it causes harm to your wellbeing (Eakman, 2016).
Put more simply, your basic psychological needs—including autonomy, relatedness, competence—are no longer being met (Ryan & Deci, 2018). Perhaps you are focussing too much on your family while your relationship with your loved one slips away, or you are prioritizing your finances over your spiritual growth.
And yet, this can cause real harm to both your body and mind, not least high levels of stress.
To lead a more fulfilling existence, then, and achieve your life goals, you must regain equilibrium.
An appropriate work-life balance will enhance your overall wellbeing by identifying and aligning the many facets—family, friends, health, work environment, and spirit—of your life (Byrne, 2005).
Performing the Wheel of Life exercise will support this process by balancing factors that influence overall wellbeing while identifying areas of life where support, guidance, and additional focus is needed.
Introducing the Wheel of Life
The original idea behind the ‘Wheel of Life’ came from industry pioneer Paul J. Meyer in the 1960s to help people realize their goals.
While the wheel today has many different forms and names—including the Life Balance Wheel, Coaching Wheel, and the Wheel of Success—they share a common purpose, transformation.
The Wheel of Life exercise is widely used in coaching and beyond and offers a practical and flexible tool for clients to assess their needs and set goals aligned with their core values.
Its beauty is its simplicity.
The wheel typically consists of between eight and ten categories essential for a fulfilling life.
Segment names vary, but the themes are usually similar, for example:
- Money & Finances
- Career & Work
- Health & Fitness
- Fun & Recreation
- Environment (home/work)
- Family & Friends
- Partner and Love
- Personal Growth & Learning
A score is placed against each segment to reflect the current level of satisfaction, usually represented using either of the following two designs:
Using a pre-drawn diagram, as per our example below, a number is circled (or filled in) next to the appropriate dimension.
If a template is not available, create a hand-drawn version. The user writes the score against each empty, named segment, and a line marks the outside of the wheel.
“Spider Web” style
It is typically generated by online coaching tools.
The markings are drawn automatically in response to input from the client.
What is it for?
The Wheel of Life provides a snapshot of your wellbeing and the level of satisfaction in your current circumstances.
At a high level, the exercise provides insight into whether or not your life is in balance. While, from a more detailed perspective, it captures whether individual areas of your life are either meeting your needs and making you happy or leaving you dissatisfied and discontented.
By scoring each category (career and work, family and friends, personal growth and learning, etc.), you identify areas that need support and improvement to reach individual and overall life goals.
The process of writing down, reviewing, and agreeing ratings not only provides input to the goal-setting process but also offers insights into areas of your life that are causing you difficulty.
The Wheel of Life can be used by anyone, with little or no training, but is commonly completed during coaching sessions to identify and agree on priorities for future exploration.
How to Use it in Life Coaching
While there are plenty of online versions of the Wheel of Life, it may be less distracting for a client to have a physical copy in front of them and complete the exercise in pen or pencil.
The client scores each category on the wheel between one and ten (or sometimes one and five) to represent their level of satisfaction. For example, a fit young person may give health and fitness a seven, while money and finances may receive a relatively low score, such as two.
By rating each segment, the client and the coach can identify areas that need attention and improvement.
Often, based on the scores, the wheel will appear ‘bumpy,’ but this is natural, and offers a quick view of overall life satisfaction. The priorities, and how they rank in terms of importance, subsequently feed into a goal setting exercise.
The Wheel of Life exercise can be repeated at regular intervals to understand progress along with potential changes in focus resulting from evolving circumstances and new priorities.
Importantly, the scoring provides a permanent record of successful personal transformation and a clear insight into the value of life coaching.
Steps involved in the Wheel of Life exercise
The following steps describe a typical interaction between a coach and client. The detail will vary depending on whether it is the first time that the client has used the tool, or if it provides an ongoing focus on a more specific area of life:
Step One – Introduce the Wheel of Life
- Provide the client with a printed copy of the Wheel of Life.
- Explain that the wheel captures a snapshot of how the client feels about their life.
- Review and discuss the meaning of the following categories, along with the scoring method:
- Money & Finance
- Career & Work
- Health & Fitness
- Fun & Recreation
- Family & Friends
- Partner & Love
- Growth & Learning
- Rename, remove or add new categories, as appropriate.
Step Two – Rank the categories
- Ask the client to score each category—either by drawing a line through or adding a number—where one is not satisfied at all, and ten is fully satisfied.
- Explain that this part of the exercise provides an overview of the level of satisfaction in their life.
Step Three – Review the wheel as a whole
Once completed, look at the outside of the wheel, discuss its overall shape, and consider the total life balance.
Ask the following questions to open up a discussion on life satisfaction:
- When you look at the shape of the wheel, how do you feel?
- How would you like to change the shape of the inner wheel?
- What surprises you the most?
- What would a score of ten look and feel like?
- Which category would you most like to improve?
- What category would you most like to start with?
- At present, how do you spend time in each area?
- What do you need to improve the score in each area?
- What small steps would have the most significant impact on your satisfaction?
- Could a single action improve more than one area?
Step Four – Review each section
Coach your client in the learnings and actions required based on the exercise.
Begin with areas that the client observes as being particularly interesting:
- Why does this area need attention?
- What would it take to increase your satisfaction by one score?
- How balanced do you feel in this area of your life?
- Why did you give this score?
- Is there anything missing from this area of your life that may affect your score?
- Is there anything that might add value to this area of your life and change the score?
Also, consider and discuss the relationships between the categories.
Step Five – Identify actions
- Identify an activity for each category, that, when completed, will change the client’s level of satisfaction.
- Where the action is over a more extended period or is relatively large and complex, define a goal — ideally one that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART)
- Each action, once completed, should add to the overall goal to improve their life balance.
Step Six – Revisit and review
Over time revisit the wheel and re-score it to understand the changes made and the actions outstanding. This is especially useful for clients to understand the success and benefits of the journey in coaching.
Ongoing check-ins are also helpful to understand overall patterns of behavior and any negative thoughts or emotions that are blocking the changes.
Also, remind the client that balance is rarely retained for long. Circumstances and priorities change; the aim is to continue the journey towards balance and avoid entering a fixed mindset that prevents transformation.
As Dr. Carol Dweck explains in her book Mindset, it is also essential to maintain a growth mindset (Dweck, 2017). Otherwise, successful transformation is at risk of being lost, like a rubber band regaining its shape after tension is removed.
Alternative Uses for the Wheel of Life
Tailored wheels can be especially valuable to explore specific areas or problems within your life:
- Work: for example, a project or promotion
- Education: studying for a qualification
- Family: strengthening a marriage or parenting children
Choose a set of appropriate segment names—but to keep it manageable, don’t go higher than ten—then repeat steps one to six.
7 Useful Templates and Tools
Coaching sessions typically focus on growth and transformation.
The client wishes to move from their current state to a new one, ridding themselves of unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving, or escaping a difficult situation.
Goal setting is the perfect tool for delivering change. It works by clearly defining goals that are time-bound and measurable, relevant, achievable, and realistic.
Download and complete the SMART Goals Worksheet to set targeted goals.
Downloadable Wheel of Life Template
There are many versions of the wheel of life; they vary in number and naming of segments, and whether scoring is represented using a pie or a spider-web style.
Our version of the Wheel of Life provides an ideal tool for capturing client satisfaction across the domains of their life, and targeting areas for improvement.
Online Wheel of Life Versions
While there are benefits to having a physical copy of the Wheel of Life, online versions can be valuable when used solo or coached remotely.
The following tools generate visual copies of the wheel of life, based on the individual’s input:
For those who prefer to complete, review, and maintain their Wheel of Life on their phone, there are apps available for both Apple and Android:
While the picture created by the Wheel of Life exercise is crucial to the process, the act of completing and reviewing it is equally important to move forward, achieve balance, and progress towards life-long goals.
5 Exercises and Examples
Explore the Uses of the Wheel of Life
The Wheel of Life is one of life coaching’s most valuable tools.
Part of its strength is its flexibility — the wheel can easily be tailored to the client (Byrne, 2005).
Once ready, it can be used, in sessions or alone, to:
- Build trust — between client and coach to share personal issues
- Create a picture — of overall life satisfaction
- Prioritize and set goals — based on client scoring and client-coach reviews
- Demonstrate coaching success — to understand what has worked well, and what requires additional focus
- Perform a check-in — during or outside of a session, to understand the current position
- Understand problems — ongoing or temporary issues and sources of stress
- Open the session — either with individuals or a group
- Review goals — the client has set over the short or long term and ask: Do they enhance overall life satisfaction?
Applying the Wheel of Life
Professor Greg Whyte describes using The Wheel of Success in his book Achieve the Impossible.
As a sports coach, Whyte has worked with many high-profile British celebrities —David Walliams, Davina McCall, and John Bishop— to prepare them to embark upon endurance challenges, raising essential money for the UK Comic and Sport Relief Charities.
Working closely with his ‘athletes’ Whyte prepares them physically and mentally for the challenge ahead. He used the wheel to “quickly and easily identify areas of strength and weakness and track how they change throughout a challenge” before clearly defining what success looks like (Whyte, 2015).
Set short-term goals
Rather than reaching for long-term goals, it can be useful to set shorter-term ones.
The Wheel of Life can capture and display, not only where you are now, but where you want to be at a future date.
For example, the green line added to the diagram below defines a mid-way point to longer-term life goals.
Use Socratic questioning to explore levels of satisfaction
The wheel of life works at multiple levels. Firstly, it allows the user to focus on how life feels. Secondly, it provides a means to understand each category, what is wrong, and what can be improved.
Use your coaching skills to work through what the completed Wheel of Life means at both levels.
Socratic questioning—using focused, open questions, to unpack beliefs—can be an ideal way of challenging why a category receives its score and how it, and overall life satisfaction, can be changed.
A brief mindfulness session can root the client in the present, ensure readiness to objectively review the scores in the Wheel of Success, before identifying the next steps.
Our 3-Step Mindfulness worksheet can help attain a suitable state of mind, grounding yourself, ready for exploration.
A Take-Home Message
We all deserve balance in our lives — we need time for family and friends, motivation to learn and play, and energy to develop our careers and passions.
When we are knocked by the changing situations we face, it is vital to find a way back, to seek equilibrium.
Although an imbalanced life provides a path to excellence or mastery, it cannot persist without impacting enduring life goals, and overall well-being.
Life coaching can restore that balance by building a bridge between where you are now and where you want to be. The Wheel of Life provides an excellent tool to visualize the gaps that require focus and attention and the changes that need to happen.
Set personal goals that take you toward your hopes and dreams and give the Wheel of Life a try— whether alone or with a life coach. Use it to build a balanced life based on your unique and distinct desires, passions, and loves, to provide a sense of completeness, satisfaction, and deep happiness.
Re-visit the wheel over the months to come; update where you are and the goals you set. See it as a health-check, to understand the well-being of your life.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 300 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.
- Byrne, U. (2005). Wheel of Life. Business Information Review, 22(2), 123–130.
- Dweck, C. S. (2017). Mindset – Updated Edition: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential. London: Robinson.
- Eakman, A. M. (2016). A Subjectively-Based Definition of Life Balance using Personal Meaning in Occupation. Journal of Occupational Science, 23(1), 108–127.
- Fredrickson, B. (2010). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to release your inner optimist and thrive. Richmond: Oneworld.
- Lee, D.-J., & Sirgy, M. J. (2017). What Do People Do to Achieve Work-Life Balance? A Formative Conceptualization to Help Develop a Metric for Large-Scale Quality-of-Life Surveys. Social Indicators Research, 138(2), 771–791.
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: The Guilford Press.
- Whyte, G. P. (2015). Achieve the impossible: how to overcome challenges and gain success in life, work, and sport. London: Bantam Press.