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Can an Ancient Tool Improve Self-Awareness and Life Balance?

An ancient tool called the wheel of life can help you discover where you spend your time & effort. It also helps you to track your progress.

Bud Ward
Bud Ward
5 min read
Can an Ancient Tool Improve Self-Awareness and Life Balance?

We all have times when life feels out of control. Our schedules become overcrowded with work, family commitments, kids’ activities, side projects, and hundreds of other things. This overload causes stress and impacts our quality of life.

When we’re in the middle of difficult phases of life, we get caught up in the chaos - forgetting our goals and how we want to live. Each day drifts into the next, then suddenly months have passed, but we haven’t made any progress.

We can get back on track if we have a system to help us remove sources of friction, prioritize areas for improvement, and monitor the results of our actions. A good system will enable us to avoid overwhelm, stay focused, reduce stress, and achieve our goals.

I started developing my own system in response to challenges in my life. It’s not perfect, but it will keep evolving.

The first step is to stop and assess our current situation. This helps us establish a starting point so that we have a way to measure the results when we make changes.

As the famous Gen-X philosopher Ferris Bueller says:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. — FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

So how do we do that?

We need a simple tool that allows us to scan the different areas of our lives.

Areas of Life

I developed the ability to compartmentalize things out of necessity when I was a kid.

My parents divorced when I was young and I was raised by a single mother who often had to work two jobs to support us. Things were tough financially and there was a lot of stress.

It was hard to focus on my school work or even having fun with my friends until I learned how to compartmentalize things.  I started doing it as a way to keep the rough parts of my life from interfering with the good parts. The compartments were basic back then – school, sports, hobbies, friends, and family.

Over time, I outgrew the need to separate my life into rigid compartments as a coping mechanism. However, I think there is value in viewing life as a blend of different areas that flow together through give and take.

Common areas of life include work, health, finances, relationships, and personal growth. A tool called the wheel of life gives a graphic representation of the areas of life. Zig Ziglar describes a wheel of life with seven spokes: mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal, and career.

I recommend creating a personal wheel of life to help you figure out how you’re doing in each area of your life.

The Wheel Of Life

I’ve been interested in Eastern philosophy and concepts throughout my life. When I deployed to the Middle East during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I took a few books with me including the Tao Te Ching and The 3 Pillars of Zen. One Buddhist concept that resonated with me was the ancient tool called the wheel of life.

A wheel of life is a diagram that illustrates the different areas of your life as a circle divided like a pie into sections. Each section represents an area of your life, for example, health, finances, relationships. There are many variations on this theme from ancient Eastern teachings to more personal development writers like Zig Ziglar and Michael Hyatt.

Using a wheel of life can help compartmentalize things when our lives get busy. It can also help keep things in perspective when we look at the areas relative to each other. For instance, if you’re struggling with finances and it is a low area for you, you can check it against your relationships or other areas. It’s unlikely that every area of your life is in a low state at the same time.

Comparing the areas of your life might help you realize that you are doing well in several areas even though a couple might need work. The wheel of life model can help you determine where to spend your time and effort to improve your life. It will also allow you to track your progress over time.

To create your wheel of life diagram, follow these instructions:

  • Think about your life and make a list of 5-10 areas that you identify as the main categories (i.e., health, work, relationships, finances).
  • Draw a circle and divide it into as many slices as you need to represent the areas of your life.
  • Draw a line from the center of the circle through each area (slice) to the edge of the circle.
  • Make 9 equally spaced hash marks on the line with the 10th being the edge of the circle.
  • Number the hash marks 0 to 10 from the center of the circle (the center is 0 for all areas)
  • Some models use 10 concentric circles instead of a number line to rate the level of success in each area.
  • Label each slice of the pie as an area of your life.

To use your wheel of life, follow these instructions:

  • Think about how you are doing or how you feel about each area of your life, then rate it 0-10 with 10 being the highest.
  • Mark your score for each area and color the area from center to your mark. Use a different color for each area of life.
  • Your wheel of life will look similar to the image below.

Shared by London Permaculture via Flickr

When you finish creating your wheel of life, you’ll have a visual diagram of the current status of the different areas of your life. The higher shaded sections indicate areas of greater success. The lower shaded sections indicated areas of your life that have room for improvement. These can become your target areas.

After you’ve determined which area you’d like to improve first, it’s time to drill down to find sources of friction in that area. Sources of friction are things that hold you back or work against your ability to make progress. For example, bad habits or lack of attention to detail can keep you from reaching your goals.

Pro-tip: Use the same colors from your wheel of life to assign task list items and calendar events to areas of your life. This will help you assess whether your actions and commitments are aligned with the areas of life that need more attention.

You can monitor your success as you make changes by updating your wheel of life during scheduled reviews. Using this tool and the system described above will help you take the first step in making progress toward a more balanced life.

1 Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life at []

2 Michael Hyatt Life Assessment Tool at []

Health & Well-BeingGrowth

Bud Ward Twitter

I'm a writer, speaker, & consultant focused on continuous improvement, mindful productivity, & sustainable well-being. I've contributed to blogs, magazine articles, courses, & digital health apps.

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