THE LIFE WHEEL: PLANNING FOR A BALANCED & FULFILLING LIFE IN EVERY ASPECT
Guys, can we talk about life-planning for a minute? Actually it's gonna take a little more than a minute, because, well... Planning your whole life isn't exactly something you do on a burger joint napkin while waiting for your order, right?
If you don't know what life-planning is, it's exactly what the name suggests. It's about planning your entire life. No big deal, right?
You might be thinking this is an insane undertaking, and before doing this exercise, I was right there with you. But with the life wheel, it's actually super simple and easy to do.
Sasha introduced me to this method a few months ago, when I was starting to actively plan The Hungarian Brunette's launch. Being a creative person, I was focusing mainly on things like the look and feel of the site, the type of posts, the collabs and features, etc. But Sasha has a habit of challenging me and pushing me outside of my comfort zone. And he thought it was primordial that I also focus on things like time-management, monetization and long-term strategy.
That's when he introduced me to the life wheel, a concept he became familiar with during his MBA. As soon as he explained it to me, I was hooked! Before doing this exercise, I was all about setting myself some mental goals and do my best to get to them, on a day-by-day basis. The problem with that approach is that it's way too abstract to give some real good results. Now, when I look at my life wheel, I know EXACTLY what my priorities are, in which aspect of my life and what my associated short-term and long-term goals are.
Here's the thing: The life wheel is a tool for planning, and it's not about taking the easy route. But because it's a step-by-step process and it's also super visual, you don't need to be a master planner to get A LOT out of it.
In fact, the only things you need to make it work are some time, a dose of self-awareness and a massive amount of honesty.
How It Works:
The life wheel is based on the principle that to lead a fulfilling life, you need to be balanced and happy in every aspect of your life. To get there, you have to set yourself a list of goals, intended to improve every part of it. And even though a good To-Do list and a calendar can go a long way, they also have their limitations. This is where the life wheel comes in! Contrarily to a list of goals you want to achieve, the life wheel forces you to assess EVERY aspect of your life, to figure out EXACTLY what you need to improve, and to set yourself realistic and simple goals.
Here's what I love the most about it: It's a process that never stops! Just like your life will keep evolving and changing over the years, so will your goals, aspirations, priorities, and even your idea of what constitutes happiness. After completing the life wheel for the first time, the normal process is to come back to it every few months (or weeks) and see how you're progressing, making adjustments when necessary.
So basically, it's an easy tool that allows you to keep yourself in check, to make sure that you reach your goals and get closer and closer to leading the exact life that YOU want, and that makes you happy and fulfilled IN EVERY ASPECT. Isn't that so fucking wonderful?
A Step-By-Step Guide To Filling Your Life Wheel:
This is where is gets real easy. First, you have to print the life wheel. I feel like that part is super important, because writing down your goals on paper makes a huge difference. You can print the printable version below and use it as a template.
Once you have your life wheel, you need to fill it. As you can see, it consists of 10 separate categories:
Family & Friends
Fun & Leisure
Mental Health & Self-Image
For each categories, you'll have to ask yourself a series of questions and attribute yourself a score for each of them. The score goes from 1 (extremely unsatisfied) to 10 (extremely satisfied, no room for improvement). This is one of the most important parts of the assessment, because it determines all the outcomes of the life wheel. That's why you have to be as honest as possible with yourself, even though the answers might not be easy to admit.
Try to answer as many of the questions as possible, from the list below. If some questions don't apply to you, you can always adapt them to your situation, or just get rid of them. (i.e. for the "Love Life" section, a lot of the question won't apply if you're single. You could either replace them with the question "Do I want a meaningful relationship?" or "Am I satisfied being single?" and attribute yourself the score 1 if you're extremely unsatisfied with your status, or 10 if you absolutely don't want a relationship at the moment.) As you can see, this is very adaptable, and it has to be. No two people have the exact same life, so no two people will have the exact same wheel life.
Here are the exact questions I came up with for myself:
Do I have any ailments, conditions, pains, or chronic illnesses?
Is my body weight healthy?
Is my diet good for me?
Do I sleep enough/do I have healthy sleeping habits?
Am I usually tired/exhausted?
Do I move enough?
Do I have any unhealthy habits (smoking, drugs, excessive drinking, etc.)
Family & Friends
Is my relationship with my parents satisfying/fulfilling?
Are my relationships with my siblings satisfying?fulfilling?
Do I have a satisfying/fulfilling group of friends and social acquaintances?
Are there people I can really confide in and trust?
Do I spend enough time doing social activities?
Is my social calendar fun and motivating?
Did I find the person I want to spend my life with?
Do I have a satisfying sex life?
Do my significant other and I have the same long-term goals and values?
Is my relationship at the stage where I want it to be?
Do I spend enough time nurturing our relationship?
Do I have a strong level of physical/emotional intimacy with my significant other?
Fun / Leisure
Do I have satisfying hobbies & passions?
Am I able to relax and enjoy myself?
Do I have fun often enough?
Do I find myself being bored a lot?
Do I learn new things on a regular basis?
Do I have short-term and long-term goals and visions for myself?
Are the things I do everyday making me a better person?
Do I feel grateful and appreciative of my life on a regular basis?
Do I find comfort in meditation or prayer?
Am I in touch with my inner self?
Do I feel connected to my own body, my environment and the universe?
Do I consider myself to be a generous person?
Do I help others around me when I can?
Could I do a little more for my community?
Do I volunteer and/or give back?
Do I feel comfortable and safe in my neighbourhood?
Is my home cozy and peaceful?
Does my home need work or improvements?
Do I have a safe/convenient method of transportation?
Is my environment tidy and clean?
Do I feel financially secure?
Am I in control of my personal finances?
Do I want to be making more money?
Do I save enough money?
Am I carrying unnecessary debt?
Do I live responsibly within my means?
Do I have a budget I try to stick to?
Am I working in my dream industry?
Do I love the company I work for?
Am I at the professional level I want to be at?
Does going to work in the morning make me happy?
Does my work make me feel fulfilled on a personal level?
Do I have opportunities for advancement and growth?
Does my career reflect my values and beliefs?
Mental Health & Self-Image
Am I generally happy?
Do I feel depressed or anxious more than what I perceive to be normal?
Are there issues I struggle with that I could/should get help for?
Do I feel like I'm a good person with great values and a positive attitude?
Am I confident in my mental capacities?
Am I happy with my physical appearance?
Do I pay enough attention to my physical appearance?
A Few Pointers:
1- As you can see, the answers to these questions are not black or white. They're all very subjective and require some level of introspection. Personally, I find that the more question you answer, the easier it gets.
2- A lot of these categories are interconnected. For example, if your self-image is very negative, that will directly impact the quality of your love life and your relationships with friends and family. If your physical health is very bad, other areas of your life like your career and fun & leisure might suffer. Understanding which categories influence which is very important, as it will greatly impact the way you set your goals.
3- I suggest being a little more severe in your scores than you normally would. After all, the goal of this exercise is to improve your life. If you didn't think at least some aspects of your life needed improving, I doubt you'd still be reading this. And that's great! In my opinion, the only people who have nothing to improve in their lives are nothing but totally delusional. When you answer the questions, try to really identify every little detail that could be improved, to give your more happiness and joy.
4- Directly related to point #3, remember this: Low scores don't necessarily mean that your life sucks! All they means is that you recognize that there's space for improvement. Consequently, setting your goals is gonna be much easier too.
Here's An Example:
Just as a reference, here's what my life wheel looks like once it's completed.
What I did was answer every question from each category, giving it a score from 1 to 10. Then, I did an average for each category (by adding all the numbers and dividing the total by the number of questions), to get a final score. The last step was colouring my life wheel up to the right number, to get a visual map of my life, in a nutshell. Here's an example:
Do I have any ailments, conditions, pains, or chronic illnesses? 6
Is my body weight healthy? 10
Is my diet good for me? 7
Do I sleep enough/do I have healthy sleeping habits? 6
Am I usually tired/exhausted? 8
Do I move enough? 6
Do I have any unhealthy habits (smoking, drugs, excessive drinking, etc.) 7
6 + 10 + 7 + 6 + 8 + 6 + 7 = 50 / 7 = 7.14 (so I rounded sown to) 7
So 7 is my final score for health.
Here's what I considered for each question:
Do I have any ailments, conditions, pains, or chronic illnesses?
I don't have any serious diseases or conditions, but I do have knee pain. Also, lately, my wisdom teeth have been hurting a lot. Lastly, for a few years now, I've been having random chest pain, that look like they might be related to heart health. I attributed myself a 6.
Is my body weight healthy?
Yes. I don't have any weight to loose. I'm skinny, but that's the way my body is. I eat what I want and I don't deprive myself. I attributed myself a 10.
Is my diet good for me?
On a daily basis, I eat really healthy food. Lots of vegetables, fruits, very few processed foods. I cook wholesome meals everyday. That being said, I do have a crazy sweet tooth. I started paying attention to my sugar consumption, but would like to lower it even more. Also, I would like to eat a little less meat, whenever possible. I attributed myself a 7.
And so on... I'm gonna stop here, because I don't think we need my whole life story in writing, but you get the idea.
The Next Steps
Once you've taken a good look at your life, answered all the questions and filled out your life wheel, there are a few extra steps to getting the full benefits from your life wheel:
1- Figure out what the most important things are to you: The concept of having it all is kind of the Holy Grail of life, but it's not always possible, depending on which stage of your life you're at. If you just graduated law school and you're starting out at a new firm, career might be your priority. Things like physical health, personal growth, family and friends and mental health might also be very close seconds. But maybe things like fun & leisure and love life are not so much a priority at the moment.
Sure, you might still enjoy a day off sometimes, reading a good book or hiking a trail. And you might have one or two guys on speed dial for when you want to have a good time. But weekend trips every weekends and a serious relationship might not be your priority right now, and that's fine. As long as you know what you want and you're being honest with yourself, you're good!
2- Pick which categories you want to improve: Based on order of importance, you should now be able to pick a few categories you want to focus on. The amount you pick varies on many factors, like how often you want to assess your progress (see below), how many low scores you got, what is really pressing, etc. That being said, the lower scores don't mean that's the first thing you should address. For example, if your contribution is a 4 but your physical health is a 5, you should definitely focus on your health first, even though the score is higher. Just like in an emergency situation in a plane, you should put on your oxygen mask first, before assisting others. As a rule of thumb, I would say picking anywhere from 1 to 4 categories is a great start.
3- Set yourself some goals: This step is crucial, because it's the whole point of doing this exercise. Once again, depending on how often you want to assess your progress, you should be able to set yourself some short-term goals, and some long-term goals. I recommend starting slowly, not to overwhelm yourself, an focusing on the most important things first. If you set yourself 20 short-term goals for each category right off the bat, chances are you won't accomplish most of them and you'll get discouraged quickly.
Also, it's important to remember (as mentioned above) that certain categories need to be addressed before others, no matter their order of importance to you. For example, you might think your mental health and self-image are not that important, but if you're depressed, anxious and have a very negative image of yourself, it's a priority to fix that before focusing on bettering your relationship (or getting into one), because improving these aspects will make a huge difference in your love life.
Whenever possible, I also try to set myself goals that will have an impact on many aspects. To go back to that young law school graduate example, her scores might be lower in the family & friends and fun & leisure sections. Her priority might be her career, but one reasonable goal might be to attend the law firms's happy hour with her colleagues once a week. Not only will this allow her to make meaningful connections with other lawyers out of the office, which is a huge plus when you're trying to advance your career, but it might also allow her to have some fun, while meeting really interesting people, eventually making friends with the same schedules, problems and similar interests. And who knows, maybe eventually, she will also meet someone from another firm, who she might be interested in having a relationship with.
4- Set a schedule to assess your progress: Once all your goals are set and you start implementing them, you'll need to come back to your wheel and reassess your progress every now and then. You can start by analyzing if you made progress on any specific goals (i.e. how many times did I go to happy hour with the lawyers from the tax department last month?). Then, you can as yourself the questions again and see if you feel differently about the different sections of your wheel, if you would give yourself a higher score. After all, improving your score in every section is the ultimate goal of the life wheel in the long term. Personally, I like to set myself monthly short-term goals, and re-assess my long-term goals and my life wheel every 3 months.
One good way to go about is to set yourself shorter assessments in the beginning, and to extend them as you become accustomed to the process. For example, in the beginning, you might want to reference your goals and your wheel every 2 weeks, just to see if you're progressing. After 2-3 months of doing it, and getting used to it (and clearer about your goals, too) you might only need to check-in with yourself every months, or even every other month. The important thing here is just to do what YOU feel comfortable with.
Phew! Information overload much? Sorry! I just think this concept is SO interesting, and I know for a fact that it works, so I really wanted to share it with you guys in details.
Personally, being a really goal-oriented person, this tool works wonders for me. My last tip would be to write down your goals for each category in a visible place that you can access easily. That way, you always have a reminder of the things you're trying to accomplish, and it's SUPER motivating.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post, it's definitely the longest one I've ever written! let me know if you enjoy these super practical types of posts, and I'll keep them coming! I certainly have a few up my sleeve, ha!
In the meantime, I would LOVE to know if some of you were already familiar with the life wheel, or even using it! Does it work well for you, do you love it, all the deets!
If you try it, DEFINITELY let me know how you're doing with it, if it helps at all, or as much as it helped me! You can always leave me a comment below, or hit me up on Instagram, @thehungarianbrunette.
Love you guys,