Models for coaching

The Wheel of Life

The Wheel of Life is a powerful self-reflection and life analysis tool to give you a clear overview of what’s going well and what needs to change.

Useful in coaching for Exploring Options, Making a Change, Self-Awareness, Understanding Behaviour 

The Wheel of Life - Life Overview Snapshot

A powerful self-diagnosis and reflection tool to explore the areas of your life where you want to create change.

What is the Wheel of Life?

The Wheel of Life (or Life Wheel) is a self-reflective, visual tool designed to give you a helicopter overview of how you feel about your life’s component parts. It’s a tool to help you to explore which parts of you’re life you’re content with and where you’d like things to change. It’s useful when taking a life review, or exploring the way your life could be enhanced through better balance.

It forms part of a wider set of self-reflection tools designed to help people review, explore and change parts of their life which might not be as they want them. It’s also a useful tool to see the way different aspects of your life interconnect and influence one another.

You’ll typically find examples that contain 8 or 10 parts, for example “Career” or “Relationships”. It can, however, be customised to any situation or way of looking at your life.

Originally attributed to the late Paul J. Meyer, founder of Success Motivation┬« Institute, Inc., it has become ubiquitous in coaching and therapy to help clients review and reflect on their lives and where they’d like to see change.

How is the Wheel of Life used?

As with other self-reflective tools, the Wheel of Life is designed to help you take stock of where different aspects of your life are and where you’d like them to be. The nature of the Wheel of Life makes it easier for you to see your life’s parts in a visual way.

It’s useful because it can help fuel self-reflection and analysis on areas of you life you might not have spent time thinking about. It can be a helpful starting point in thinking about what you’re content with and what you’d like to change.

It also encourages you to decide on the areas that matter enough to include in your wheel. This can be useful if you don’t often spend time reviewing or reflecting on the parts of you life that bring you joy or detract from it.

The Wheel of Life - Life Overview Snapshot

Coaches and therapists will often use it to kick-off relationships or engagements as it can form a useful foundation for discussions and areas of focus.

Uses for the Wheel of Life include:

  • When you want to take stock of where your life is.
  • When you know something’s not right but haven’t had the time to reflect on what.
  • Understanding the interplay between parts of your life, and how they affect one another.
  • Exploring where you’d like to focus in a coaching session.

How to use the Wheel of Life

The wheel of life is simply a visual representation of the things that are important, or have an impact, on your life. This means it’s completely customisable to whatever you want to focus on. It also means there’s a variety of way to use it. Below is a quick walkthrough of how to use the Wheel of Life.

1. Choose where to focus

The first step is to decide which areas you’d like to include in your wheel. It’s worth spending some time thinking about exactly what you’d like to achieve from the exercise. The more specific you can be, the more useful the tool. Here’s some examples.

Wheel of Life Example

Wheel of Life for a Life Snapshot

You want an overview of your life as it stands and to spend time reflecting on where you’re content and where you’re not. In this case, you’d use broad categories the encompass the aspects of your life that matter most.

You might like to include:
  • Money & Finance
  • Career & Growth
  • Health & Fitness
  • Family & Recreation
  • Environment
  • Community
  • Friends & Family
  • Partners & Love
  • Growth & Learning
  • Spirituality


Wheel of Life for your Career

You want to focus on your career progression. In this case you may choose areas such as Professional Development, Work Relationships, Network, Achievements, Purpose.

You might like to include:
  • Work/life balance
  • Career progression
  • Commute
  • Salary/benefits
  • Working environment
  • Working relationships
  • Autonomy/freedom
  • Job satisfaction
  • Value/moral fit


Wheel of Life for your Relationships

You want to explore your relationship with your significant other. For this wheel you’d look at some of the foundations of a healthy, functional and fulfilling relationship.

You might like to include:
  • Emotional honesty
  • Boundaries
  • Fulfilment
  • Shared goals / Dreams
  • Family / children
  • Independence / Dependence
  • Intimacy / Romance

2. Map out your contentment

Mapping out the areas on the Wheel of Life

Work through each section you’ve chosen in the Wheel of Life and mark your level of contentment from 0 (very discontent) to 10 (extremely content). Don’t get too hung up on the number – just mark what you feel is right. The question is, if you took a step back and looked at that part of your life, how would you mark it right now?

N.B. I’m using contentment here because most clients find it a useful measurement but by all means choose your own definition if you prefer. Some people prefer “joy”, “happiness” or “at peace with”.

We’re going to revisit each area in a minute but, for now, work through each and then join up the dots. You’re aiming for something that looks like the image.

This is an “as is” snapshot of where you feel your life is at the moment. Take a step back and make sure it “feels” right. Does this feel like a fair representation of how you see your life is at the moment? Would you change anything before we move forwards?

3. Explore each area and ask why

Now we’ve got a snapshot of where you feel these aspects of your life are, we’re going to dive a little deeper into each area and explore them. As you look at each topic or area, the question is: what made you give it this mark? This is the time for some thoughtful self-reflection. As you work through each area, jot down your thoughts as you go.

You’re aiming to build a list of thoughts for each of the areas you’ve chosen, and reflect on the factors affecting them. Both within, and outside your control.

Some useful questions might be:

  • What made you give it this score?
  • How does this aspect of your life feel to you?
  • What are the main reasons or factors affecting this area?
  • How much control do you have in this part of your life?
  • How comfortable are you with this part of your life?

4. Choose where you’d like to be

Once you’ve explored where you feel you are, the next step is to look at where you’d like to be. From experience, most people are realistic in their outlook and rather than trying to achieve a 10 on everything, they tend to focus on shifting things up a notch or two in areas that are having the biggest impact on their contentment / joy.

It’s a useful exercise to look at the Wheel of Life and ask which areas are contributing most to your life at the moment, and which might be best to focus on. This is an opportunity to think about what’s most important and what can be left alone for now.

The key is taking a realistic view of where you’ll get the biggest impact for you own well-being. This might mean drastic changes, but it could also mean a few smaller ones.

Some useful questions might be:

  • What would you like this area to score?
  • What areas are having the biggest impact on your life?
  • How important are each of the areas you’ve chosen to you?
  • What would that look like in the future?
  • How might you get there?

5. Build an action plan

The purpose of the Wheel of Life is to give you a place to start. It’s tempting with exercises this like to build one, big master plan. This is fine if you think it’s achievable but there’s a danger with tackling too much at once and becoming overwhelmed with the wealth of changes you might want to make.

Most research suggests that small, gradual and consistent changes in your life are more likely to succeed that big shifts that require a huge amount of energy to maintain. Instead, you might find an approach I use with clients helpful. It breaks things down into three steps.

The process I use with clients looks like this:

1. Choose a direction of travel
2. Pick the first three steps forward
3. Pick three things to stop

1. Choose a direction of travel

All this means is making a commitment to where you’d like to aim. You don’t need to develop a huge plan for world domination or the next 5 years of your life. You simply need to take the reflections and observations you’d made and choose a rough point in the future you’d like to aim for. This might be a promotion, or feeling more connected with family, or finding a new passion. The key is, we’re not trying to choose every step to get there, just knowing that you’re pointing in the right direction.

2. Pick the first three steps forward

The next stage is to choose the very first three steps you need to take to move in that direction. It’s useful because it helps break down larger goals into smaller parts, and means we focus only on the first few steps.

What are three, small steps you can take this week/month to help you move forwards?

There’s lots of research out there that suggests these small, gradual changes in our life are easier to manage and build the habits needed to sustain longer, more permanent change.

3. Pick three things to stop

Finally, we’re going to choose three things to stop doing. Think of these as the anchors that are preventing you moving forwards. What, based on your reflections, are the things that will cause you to stumble or hold you in place. It’s critical that these are specific, achievable and ideally small (SMART goals). Make them too big or too broad and it’ll make them far harder to achieve.

What are three, small things you can stop to help you move forwards?

That’s it!

You’ve followed the five steps to build your own Wheel of Life, and an action plan for how you want things to change.

Example Wheel of Life Templates

To help you get started, I’ve put together a few examples you can start using today. They cover some of the most common topics I work on with my clients. If you can think of another, pop it in the comments.

Life Snapshot Summary – Wheel of Life

Use this template if you want to explore aspects of your life in broad strokes. This is the most common format for the Wheel of Life as it tries to encompass everything before you narrow it down.

Career Summary – Wheel of Life

A useful way to explore parts of your career and professional growth, then explore how you feel about them. Based on 10 areas that have an impact on your career and overall happiness.

Other Coaching Models

Here’s some more helpful coaching and self-reflection models

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