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Wheel of Life

Many years ago when I was in a transitional career period, I hired a life coach. One of the early tools she gave me was a circular grid called the “wheel of life,” and I still use it when I am looking to move the needle on some of my goals or am feeling a bit stuck and can’t figure out why.

You can search for “wheel of life” on the internet and find some pre-drawn versions of the exercise, but it’s quick and easy to draw up yourself. In the middle of a blank sheet of paper, draw a circle. Divide the circle like a pie into eight sections and label them on the perimeter of the circle with the following headings: Health, Family, Love Life, Home, Finance, Career, Personal Growth and Fun.

With the center of the pie representing zero and the outer edge representing ten, plot your feeling about how you are enjoying or performing in each category. For example, if you are eating right, exercising and experiencing great health, you would put a dot on the outer edge of the Health piece of pie, representing a score of ten. If your home is needing organization and you feel overwhelmed, or if you’ve procrastinated on some home projects, you might put a dot in about the middle of the Home piece of pie, representing a score of five. If you are working too much and never have time to do anything with your friends, the dot might land near the center of the pie on the Fun section, representing a zero score.

Once you’ve plotted points in all eight sections, draw a line from section to section. If you are like most people, your resulting “wheel” is not smooth and even, but dips down in certain areas. When we have work to do in any one area, the ride can be bumpy. Where we need to give some focus and put in some extra work becomes a little clearer.

Obviously, all of the categories work together. If you’re having a crisis in Health, chances are the other categories, like Career and Finance, are suffering as well. But since the Health category is causing the breakdown in the others, that is the section that requires immediate focus. On the outer edge of the Health section (or on back of the paper if there’s no room) list three to five actions you could take to improve your Health. Then do the same for any other sections that need some uplift.

Some of your action items might be unrealistic—that’s okay. If you have debilitating allergies, you could put, “move to the desert,” on your list, even if that is not an action you are likely to take. If this is your first time doing the “wheel of life” exercise, I’d encourage you to think as far outside the box as possible. Let your imagination go wild. Then look at your ideas and create a second list of actions that are more achievable and practical. Your far-out ideas might spark some insight or creative ways you could realistically take action.

For example, if you want to move the Personal Growth point out to a ten, you might put down, “spend a month at Esalen,” or “plan a trip to India.” These could spark some more practical and affordable ideas like, “download the Headspace app and start meditating,” or “attend the next Wes Nisker lecture at the meditation center in Napa.”

When you’ve finished, put your wheel somewhere that you could review it regularly. When you feel you’ve made some progress, repeat the exercise with a fresh wheel drawing. Connect the points and see if you’ve managed to smooth out your wheel. If you have focused at improving your low scoring areas, even if you didn’t have a dramatic shift yet, your feeling of taking control and doing something positive in that area should bring the score up. Almost magically, the ride that is your life will become smoother, less stuck and better balanced.