What Is the Wheel of Life?
Focusing on just one area of your life can lead to imbalance and feeling ‘off-kilter.’ It can be difficult to understand why you are feeling overwhelmed and dissatisfied, and the Wheel of Life can be a great visual tool to decipher what you are focusing on the most, and where you need to shift some energy.
The idea of your life being a wheel has been part of the journey to self-awareness from ancient times – the Buddhist wheel was used by Buddha to teach lessons of enlightenment, especially with the eight-fold path.
A complicated mandala, the Buddhist Bhavachakra is divided into different realms, which represent the states in which a soul can be reborn, with a demon in the center.
The balance in the wheel is the cyclical nature of life as Tibetan spirituality understands.
The modern version of the Wheel of Life that is used by personal and professional coaches came from the work of Paul J Meyer, the founder of the Success Motivation Institute.
He was one of the founders of what we now recognize as life coaching, and in 1960 he created the Wheel of Life to help people gain conscious awareness of the different segments of living.
In this case, the Wheel of Life, sometimes known as a Life Balance Wheel, the Coaching Wheel or the Life Wheel, is a depiction of balance, equilibrium and a smooth journey into the future.
The Meyer Wheel of Life shows the juggle that life can be between competing demands, helping people see where too little, or too much, focus on specific areas can cause stress and frustration.
The Wheel of Life is a circle, with each spoke of the wheel representing a different area of life. The spokes cover all the different needs that you have – all the different parts of your life that are competing for your attention, which need to be balanced.
As a tool for development, it is most often used by coaches, but it is something that is simple enough to use by yourself to help you gain visual clarity on your life and what is important.
You can implement the Wheel of Life so that you can see what demands a full-time job, your family, personal life and other responsibilities are placing on you.
The spokes of the Wheel of Life are made from different categories, and the ones that you choose to put on your particular wheel will depend on what is important to you in your life.
As a visualization tool, the categories give equal weight in principle to each segment, with an empty wheel demonstrating perfect balance. The ideal Wheel of Life is perfectly balanced throughout all the categories – and this makes it run smoothly, much like a real-life wheel.
This is an important part of the Wheel of Life for most people. Focusing on your career often means that you have more satisfaction in areas like your finances, but it can also mean that attention is driven away from areas like fun or family.
In work-related coaching, the career segment can often be taken and put into a separate wheel to focus on development and balance.
Financial stability is an important part of the balance needed in life, with issues like debt and struggling to pay bills making other problems worse.
While career changes can improve this area, focusing too much on money can take enjoyment out of working and have a negative effect on other areas.
Illness is one part of this spoke, but it also refers to general health, mentally and physically, as well as the focus you give to eating well and exercising.
Both physical and mental health are parts of your life that are important when considering other categories.
All work and no play… you know how that one ends.
If you do not have enough focus in your life on the things that make you happy – the things that are just for you, whether that is a spa weekend or a hobby, a quiet evening in the bath or playing team sports – then you are allowing a great imbalance.
Focusing on other areas of your life means that you might be risking your relationships with both family and friends by not having enough time or energy to focus on them.
However, for some people, focusing too much on the needs of others can in fact lead to imbalance in your own self-care.
Whether you are looking for that special someone or have been married for years, making time for love and romance isn’t just for novels.
It doesn’t matter if you’re on the dating scene or trying to keep the flame alive, shifting focus from other areas to your romantic life is important.
If, on the other hand, you focus too much on finding ‘the one’, you could need to find balance by moving some of that energy away.
This might be development in terms of your career progression or learning something new for yourself – perhaps a new skill or something related to a hobby.
Having a growth mindset is necessary for action to be taken once your Wheel of Life is completed.
This might be the workplace – your office or factory where you spend most of your time.
It could also be your home, and might be about how comfortable you are, whether you need to renovate or make improvements.
Through volunteering time or donating money, supporting worthy causes and giving back is often an important part of a Wheel of Life – and whether it is a national charity or a more local cause, the way you contribute to society might be something you choose to represent.
If you are of a spiritual or religious mindset, you might want to visualize how much space is given to spirituality in your life.
This might include getting to church for services or making time to be thankful in whatever way suits you best.
When you are creating your own Wheel of Life, there are two main ways that the categories and spokes can be represented.
The first is a pie style. Each slice is a different section of your life, and it can be colored in to demonstrate how satisfied you feel you are in that particular area.
The second is a spider web style. This has a 1-10 scale in the same way as the pie style, but satisfaction is marked on the spokes, with a line joining each point (resembling a spider web).
Both styles are based on a circle.
To create your own Wheel of Life, you can follow these simple steps:
This is more of a ‘longlist’ than a shortlist, so treat it like a brain dump for the best results. You don’t need to worry about any kind of order to this, just write things down as they come to you.
It might be responsibilities or goals, or a bit of both.
This is the shortlist, and by grouping the areas together it is easier to create a visual representation and create an action plan.
This might mean that if you wrote debt, savings and mortgage down, you would group that under money or finances.
Aim for six to 10 categories – too few and the grouping is too difficult, but too many and you risk spreading your focus too far and then lacking the energy to make improvements. The categories need to make sense to your situation.
As mentioned before, both are similar in the way they work, they just look different – so choosing the one for you is based on the aesthetic.
There are templates available online if you don’t want to make your own, but if you are getting creative, make sure that you section your wheel equally. You can use a computer or good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Each spoke should be marked with a scale from 1-10 and labelled with one of your chosen categories.
If you are using the pie style, the categories are the wedges, but if you are using the spider web style, the categories should be placed on the spokes. There should be one wedge or spoke per category, and the order you add the categories doesn’t really matter.
This is where the self-reflection really begins.
You need to think carefully about how satisfied you are in each category. This needs honesty and some clarity to make sure that it is useful.
A score of ten means you are most satisfied with that area, while a score of one means that you are completely dissatisfied.
You will begin to see a pattern emerging with your answers and the way you feel about your life balance coming through as you answer.
Take your time to get this as accurate as you can – remember it is a starting point and something to grow from, so it is not meant to be perfectly aligned.
In an ideal world, and for the best balance, every category in your Wheel of Life should be at the same level, but this is not very realistic for most people.
It is natural that this will look ‘spiky’ or bumpy and uneven – you know you are feeling unbalanced, and you will be able to see where your energy is being spent, and where you might need some more focus.
This is where you can start moving forward in a growth mindset.
Look at the Wheel of Life and decide what you want the balance of categories to feel like. This will usually be a more even, smooth spread of scores between the categories that you are using.
Scores of less than five are not ideal, and scores of ten might be unreasonably high – but you need to be realistic and aim for an equal balance in most cases.
You might want to create a second Wheel of Life to show your goal scores or overlay your ideal points on the original. Keep these together so you can refer to them and check your progress as you implement the changes needed to get to your ideal balance.
When you can see the changes that need to be made, this is where you can begin to grow and develop.
You want to be able to rebalance the wheel, and to do this you should think about the small steps and actions that you could take that would improve a category by even one point.
You can do this through each category – some of them might need less focus, so you can share your energy in the right way to make sure that you are balanced in all areas.
Make sure that any actions you set are achievable and have a set timescale for revisiting the exercise to make sure that you are staying on track. You can use SMART planning to help make sure that you get the most out of the actions that you set.
Most people like to reassess in 30 days, or once per quarter.
Being able to develop and grow in a balanced way means having a clear view of where you are and where you want to be.
The Wheel of Life is a simple and straightforward way to consciously recognize which areas of your life are causing imbalance in the wheel, and you can make a difference by reviewing these areas and working on them.
Regular reviews of your current Wheel of Life to determine how well you are progressing will keep you on track with your personal growth and your journey to a more balanced life.
Implementing change in a big way starts with small actions and simple steps, and the Wheel of Life can help you find satisfaction and contentment.