But the truth is, my desire to help people create more happiness didn’t stem from having my own deeply fulfilling life—but rather because I didn’t.
At the time I was working my “dream” job. I was earning a 6-figure salary with an attractive benefits plan and six weeks of vacation to boot. To outsiders, it might’ve appeared that I was living the dream.
Although I reached “it status” (in my mind), I was deeply dissatisfied and terribly miserable.
One of the first assignments I did in my coach training was a life satisfaction exercise using the balance wheel or wheel of life as it’s commonly referred. I recall looking at it wondering how such a simple tool could possibly help me create more happiness and fulfilment in life.
The answer is, it can’t. But it does provide awareness about the things in your life that aren’t working and helps you reflect on ways you can change it.
When I did this exercise the first time, it was clear that while I had a successful career and my finances were well, I had no time for hobbies or creative pursuits. The things that truly lit me up. Connections with girlfriends and family were non-existent. The majority of my time was spent on the 9-5 grind and my weekends were spent mostly recovering from it all.
At that time, my life was a monotonous routine of work—home—work and it was clear why I struggled so hard to find joy or meaning in the ways I was spending my time.
Although I don’t think that a pure state of balance can be achieved in all quadrants of your life at the same time (and it’s not really the point), I do think it helps to know which areas of your life are out of whack so you can move forward in alignment with the things that align with the season of life you’re in.
Nobody strives to be rich and lonely or sick and successful but it’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re not focused on your priorities or worse… don’t know what they are.
When you’re clear about what matters, and you can see that you’re not nurturing that part of yourself, you can begin to make changes and take action towards your most important goals that contribute to your overall happiness. The intention isn’t to be in perfect balance at all times (it’s not possible), but to round out each life area (and increase the ones that feel most important to you now).
Let’s look at how this simple and effective coaching tool can help you determine your priorities in life and help you achieve more balance for deeper life satisfaction.
Step 1. Draw a life wheel
Grab a pen and a blank piece of paper (don’t forget to add the date so you can refer back and see how your life has improved).
Draw a big circle and divide your circle into 8 or 10 categories (like a pie). I’ve listed the common categories used for this exercise below, but feel free to modify them to fit your lifestyle. You’ll want to make sure that your categories are meaningful for you.
Career + purpose:
Are you happy in your job? Do you feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment with the work you do? Is your career meaningful? Are you making a difference?
Finances + money:
How happy are you with your overall finances? Do you have savings or the financial freedom to do the things you want to do?
Health + wellbeing:
Do you make time for regular exercise and a nutritious diet? Do you feel energetic and healthy?
Friends + family:
Do you feel connected and close with your friends and family? Do you spend quality time with them? Do you have a supportive group of friends or family and value these relationships?
Love + significant other:
Do you share a close bond with your partner? Do you have a partner? Do you want one? Are your needs being met and are you meeting the needs of your partner?
Personal development and learning:
Are you stretching beyond your comfort zone? Are you learning new things and expanding and growing as a person?
Do you feel supported or connected to a Divine source? are you growing spiritually? do you have a daily spiritual practice? do you want one?
Fun, leisure, + hobbies:
Do you unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby that brings you joy? Do you have fun and laugh often? Do you have a sense of adventure in your life or a sport that makes you feel alive?
Do you feel a sense of peace and happiness at home? Are you living where you want to be living? Do you feel safe and secure? Is your home comfortable and relaxing? Neat and tidy?
Feel free to split some categories or include others like, community contribution, accomplishment, philanthropy, emotional health, etc.
Step 2: Rate each category
Once you’ve created your life wheel, spend a few minutes and think about your most ideal situation for each category. What does success (a score of 10) look like for career + purpose, relationships, personal development and so on.
Once you determine success in each area, rate them between 1 and 10 with 1 being your lowest level of satisfaction and 10 being the highest. Mark 0 as the centre of the circle and 5 being the centre intersecting 1 and 10.
Mark your satisfaction level for each area with a dot and include the number next to it so it’s clear. Repeat this for each category.
Once you’ve rated each category, begin to connect the dots.
Step 3: Assess it
Great, now that you have your life wheel plotted, are you surprised by what you see? What story does your life wheel tell you? How do you feel about your life when you look at your wheel? Is it balanced or lop-sided? What changes would you like to make to create a more balanced view?
Step 4: Determine your priorities for goal setting
Don’t be too alarmed if your life wheel is not as well-rounded as you’d like or if you have a pretty small circle of balance (meaning your circle is closer to the centre line suggesting a low level of overall happiness and satisfaction in life).
This exercise is meant to bring your attention to the things you want to change and clearly illustrate where you can improve.
Make a list of 2 to 3 small steps you can take on the areas you would like to improve.
Ask yourself each question for every area you wish to increase your satisfaction:
- What changes would you like to see in the next 90 days?
- What does a score of 10 look like? What would you have to do or change to bring your score to a 10?
- List 2-3 small action steps you can take to make these changes.
It’s important to note that the changes you make are not drastic changes. These are usually small tweaks that can have a huge impact. For instance, an action step you might take to increase your satisfaction in health and wellbeing might be to go to bed an hour earlier or create a better wind-down routine. Perhaps increasing your satisfaction with friends and family might be to organize a potluck that brings everyone together.
The objective of this exercise is to bring you closer to your definition of balance which is unique to everybody.
Keep assessing this over time to look for patterns and to help you get back on track.
Tell me in the comments below…
- Was this exercise helpful in determining your priorities and giving you clarity about how to create more happiness in your life?
- What’s one thing you can do right now to improve your current situation?
- Which life area(s) are you going to focus on?
This is acTually a really cool concept. like, we all know that we need balance but Ive never been able to actually visualize the balance (or lack thereof…hah) like this before. Definitely useful! 🙂
Ha! I know what you mean, Nicole. I wasn’t able to visualize it either until I did this exercise; that is such a great way to describe it. It’s very telling when you can see it written out on paper. I’m glad you found it useful! x
Great way to think through the big picture! So true, sometimes the things we want most (work, big salary, etc.) aren’t always what they seem.
That’s exactly right Teresa. Unfortunately some of us learn that really late in life. x
I HAVE NEVER SEEN THE LIFE WHEEL IDEA BEFORE. i LOVE IT. i AM LOOKING FORWARD TO TRYING IT THE NEXT TIME I HAVE A FEW MOMENTS ALONE.
That’s great, Amy! It’s a simple little tool that has a big impact. Have fun! x