You might have heard of the wheel of life. It looks like a funky pie chart and it’s one of the most popular goal setting exercises and a system adopted by many coaches.
The purpose of the wheel of life is to identify the areas of life to set goals for. That is, the areas in which we’re most off balance and have the biggest gap to fill.
Now, depending on who you ask, they’ll usually give you a list of predefined areas as your goal setting guidelines. And they might work out for you great.
Or they might not work for you at all – if you’re struggling with your most basic needs like health and financial security, then you probably won’t feel particularly inclined to set goals in spirituality or contribution.
While I believe striving for balance in the different areas of our life can be very beneficial, I also believe not all of us are in the same season of life, care for the same things, have the same values, or even the same needs.
Life areas for goal setting:
There are 5 major life categories you should be setting goals in. These 5 categories can be broken down further into smaller life areas for goal setting:
1. Health & Fitness
The truth is that if you don’t take care of you body, no one else will. And none of your other successes will matter much if you loose your health.
Things as basic as food and rest often get set on the back burner even though they provide the foundation for achieving everything else in life.
Sub-categories you could look at include:
- Eating habits
- Exercise and sports
- Lifestyle choices (like smoking or regular check ups)
- Rest and sleep
- Energy levels
- Mental health
Your financial situation is tightly connected to the fulfillment of your need for safety and it can affect all other areas of your life. Your career goals will usually go beyond money alone and that’s whyI’ve included them in the growth category but you could combine them if that’s what makes more sense to you.
Sub-categories you could look at include:
- Retirement plan
3. Relationships / Social
Relationships are an integral part of our lives. As human beings we have an inherit need for belonging.
Depending on the season of your life, you can break this down further into:
Growth is such a big and diverse category that it definitely deserves to be broken down further. Career or business should most definitely be something you look at in detail and set goals for. Also, education isn’t over just because school is over.
In order to be happy we need to grow and evolve consistently. As humans we always strive to be better people.
Areas of growth you could look into further:
- Career & business
- Intellect and education
- Mindset and attitude
- Spirituality and faith
Of all areas of life, this is the one that gets most often overlooked when setting goals. We tend to set hard goals and often forget to have fun along the way.
Being intentional about your hobbies, vacations and making time for the things you love is the only way to living a happy life you love. However, this category is higher up in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and as such can often be the last one we work on.
These are some of the subcategories to look at:
- Play and fun
- Home and environment
How many different areas of life should your wheel have?
You can pick as little as the main 5 areas of life or you can break them down into 16 life areas or even more. You can also merge some of the subcategories. How many areas you pick will greatly depend on how well you’re already tracking with certain areas.
As uncomfortable as it might make you, the goal here is to focus on the areas where we’re performing the worst. So, if you’re fairly confident in your financial progress and avocational life but feel like your health suffers, that’s a great sign you should double down on it.
However, be realistic and don’t bite more than you can chew. As a general rule, 8-10 is a good number. If you feel like you’re falling behind on all fronts then start with top levels only and slowly add more.
How do you choose the areas of life for your wheel of life?
To create your own wheel of life simply go through the list above and pick whatever resonates with you most. Choose goal setting categories that are relevant to your life right now.
The only rule here is that you need to choose at least one area for each of the 5 life categories:
- Health & fitness,
- Relationships & social
You can pick the top level category or one or several of the subcategories. By doing so you’ll ensure you’re setting goals in all aspects of life.
If you feel like you’re falling behind on some aspects and exceeding in other aspects of a certain area, that’s a good sign you should break it down further.
I’d also like to encourage you and ad a couple of areas you feel uncomfortable with.
Your wheel of life will change so make sure to review it through the years.
Keep your goal setting categories relevant to where you are at in life.
For example, as you finish school you’ll want to remove it from the wheel of life. And you’ll add parenthood once you have kids. Perhaps you’ll group eating and exercise back into one category as you improve your habits in this area and elaborate on your avocational area of life instead.
I’ve noticed that due to the pandemic, my health, finances and avocational life have suffered. My finances and avocational life are tightly connected to travel and adventure … and well, travel just isn’t easy at the moment. But on the other hand, I’ve had more time for growth and learning, and even started a new business venture. I’ve strengthened my relationship with my partner and family, but fell out of touch with a lot of my friends. I’ve had more time for cooking so I’ve been eating healthy, but find it hard to workout at home. And with everything going on in the world and all these changes, my mental health has also taken a tool.
So with this in mind, the eight areas I’ve chosen for my current wheel of life are:
- Health and fitness
- Mental health & mindset (yes, I made a new hybrid that’s half health and half growth)
- Career & business
How do you score your areas of life?
Defining your goal setting areas of life is just the beginning of your goal setting plan. Now we need to assess your starting position.
Before you start scoring take a moment to think about what a perfect 10 would look like for you. A 10 is your vision so dream big and don’t hold yourself back.
In this scoring system a one is pure hell (anti-vision) and a ten is your dream, a perfect state.
If you dream big enough, then the ten is unsustainable and reserved for fleeting moments so a 9 is the highest sustainable score. That’s because you always need something bigger to strive for.
A 9 and 8 are satisfactory, 7 and 6 are comfortable, 5 and 4 is where it starts getting bad, 3 and 2 are frustrating and intolerable, 1 is pure hell and the worst situation you can imagine.
Since this scoring system is relative, your 7 might be someone else’s 10 and that’s the beauty of it. It’s also possible that your 10 today becomes your 7 in the future. That’s why it’s important to repeat this goal setting exercise regularly.
Here’s how to score your life areas:
- Draw a circle with 9 concentric and incrementally smaller circles inside.
- Split the circle in equal parts (like a pie) for as many life areas as you’ve chosen.
- Assign an area name to each section.
- Score each area on a scale from 1 to 10 and color in as many circles. Keep in mind the scoring system described above.
How do you prioritize areas for setting life goals?
As tempting as it might be to focus on your strengths and double down on the areas where you’re already doing well, the goal here is to work on what you’re falling behind on first. We’re going for balance.
The idea is, that you need perfectly round wheels to roll.
Look at where you’re scoring worst and tackle that. However, in doing so, make sure you’re not hurting the areas where you’re performing well. Again, balance is key.
Once you’ve identified the areas that need your immediate attention, set goals for them and crush them!
However, keep in mind that you’re only human. You can only do so much at once. Good life planning will help you achieve them all. Spread these goals thorough the year and plan your days so that you’re making incremental progress toward your goals.