Using the wheel of life process to ascertain personal priorities following a year of uncertainty
With 2021 now upon us, many of us will be turning our attention to planning and goal setting for the year ahead. But what goals do we set when our priorities might have shifted drastically over the last year as a result of the pandemic and related changes?
Personally, I like the Wheel of Life  process - to firstly understand my priorities and then set my goals and plan how to achieve them. I also use this tool during coaching sessions with clients to facilitate the process for them.
What is the Wheel of Life process?
The Wheel of Life is a visual representation of your high-level priorities and your level of satisfaction with each priority at any given time. It’s a simple way to identify which areas may require more attention.
Our priorities aren’t fixed. There are any number of milestones in life which can shift what’s important to us such as changing jobs, starting a business, having a baby, relocating, a pandemic and many more. One of the benefits of this process is that it is flexible enough to be revisited regularly to ensure you’re on track with your priorities and pivot quickly when your priorities change. I recently looked back through my wheels from previous years and could see how my priorities have shifted quite significantly from year to year.
One of the other benefits of the Wheel of Life process is that you can use it at a macro or more micro level. It can provide a helicopter view of your life, but it can also be used to break down the priorities within one area of your life (such as your career) or even for a project. The process can be used with the help of a coach or on your own to give you clarity when understanding your priorities and setting your goals.
Here are the steps for creating and plotting your wheel.
Step 1 – Create the wheel
Start with a blank sheet of paper. Write today’s date at the top of the page. It’s important that you know when this process was undertaken so you can compare the results the next time you complete the process. Draw a circle and divide it into eight segments (you may find you need less or more – generally it will be between six and ten segments). This will become your wheel (see figure 1).
Figure 1 - Wheel of Life - segments
Step 2 - Identify aspects of your life
Brainstorm six to ten aspects of your life for each of the sections of your wheel. These should be the things most important to you. Be specific and authentic to what is truly important to you. The benefit of this process is that the wheel can and should be completely tailored to what is meaningful to you.
If you need some thought starters, here are some common areas people may address on their wheel, however it’s important you name each section on your wheel how you feel fits best for you, it is your own personal wheel.
● Love and relationships
● Education and professional development
● Wealth and finances
● Creative expression
● Physical health
● Mental health
● Hobbies, recreation and leisure
● Community engagement
● Public service
Add your top six to ten aspects of your life to the wheel (see figure 2).
Figure 2 - Wheel of Life - aspects of your life
Step 3 - Rate your satisfaction with each aspect of your life
The next step is to rate how satisfied you are with each aspect of your life at the current moment. With 10 as the highest and 0 as the lowest, the scale can roughly be broken down as follows:
0 - Extremely dissatisfied
1 - Very dissatisfied
2 - Dissatisfied
3 - Somewhat dissatisfied
4 - Neither satisfied or dissatisfied
5 - Somewhat satisfied
6 - Satisfied
7 - Very satisfied
8 - Extremely satisfied
9 - Almost fully satisfied
10 - Fully satisfied
Assuming the outside of the wheel represents a 10 in satisfaction level and the midpoint of the circle represents a zero in satisfaction level, draw a line in each segment to highlight how you’ve rated your satisfaction with that aspect of your life (See figure 3).
Figure 3 – Wheel of Life - current satisfaction ratings for aspects of your life
Step 4 - Assess the desired levels of satisfaction
The next step is to consider how satisfied you would like to be in each aspect of your life. You shouldn’t necessarily attempt to achieve a rating of 10 in each segment. Not all of your priorities will be equal in weight and therefore trying to be wholly satisfied in each segment won’t be desirable nor achievable. You only have so much time and energy to give to each aspect of your life. Draw a line in each segment to represent the ideal satisfaction rating (See figure 4).
Figure 4 - Wheel of Life - desired satisfaction ratings for aspects of your life
In Figure 4, the person has identified they would like to see improvements in each aspect of their life, with some aspects achieving a higher rating than others. Sometimes even a modest improvement in an area will make a big impact.
The goal is to see the areas where you’re not as satisfied as you would like to be, to give you an idea of where your attention may be required.
If you complete this process with a coach, this is when they will ask you clarifying questions to really dig deeper on your level of satisfaction in each area and where and how things need to improve.
Step 5 - Develop SMART goals
The Wheel of Life process enables you to develop goals that are actually in line with your priorities and discard those that aren’t actually important to you. This is a useful way to identify where things don’t need to change as well as where they do.
Have a look at your Wheel of Life and consider which area you would like to work on first. This can be an area with a large gap between actual and desired satisfaction, but it could be any of the other areas as well. Again, this is your personal Wheel of Life, so you can approach it in a way that works best for you.
Now that you know which areas require your attention, you can start developing goals for the respective aspects of your life to help you achieve the desired level of satisfaction. Ensure the goals you are setting are SMART goals ; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Your goals should take account for what is and isn’t within your control.
For example, in Figure 4 we can see that health, community and hobbies require the most attention. For this person, their goals in these areas may include:
HEALTH: To complete 60 minutes of exercise (either going for a run or completing a gym class) twice a week, for 12 months
COMMUNITY: To volunteer at the local women’s refuge for half a day, once a month, for six months
HOBBIES: To undertake a pottery class, once a week, for 12 weeks
Step 6 - Revisit the wheel
To remain accountable for and energised by your goals, and to reconfirm your priorities, it’s a good idea to regularly revisit your wheel. Placing your wheel somewhere visible to you is a good way to be regularly reminded of your priorities and to stay on track.
If you need help identifying your priorities after a year of such significant change and uncertainty, you’re not alone! The Wheel of Life process can be a useful tool to help you understand what’s truly important to you and create relevant goals accordingly.
Abilitise can help you with your personal and professional planning through coaching sessions as well as strategic planning sessions for individuals and teams. Get in touch to find out more.