The Complete Guide to The Wheel of Life (for Coaches)

Complete Guide to The Wheel of Life Tool For Coaches

The Wheel of Life Exercise, sometimes known as the Coaching Wheel or Life Balance Wheel, is one of the most powerful and versatile Coaching Tools available.

Here at the Coaching Tools Company, we think it's the ultimate coaching tool; simple and easy to use - and extremely flexible. You can use it with any coaching client, and using a blank coaching wheel you can adapt it to almost every coaching situation too! Read on to find everything you need to know about this powerful coaching exercise.

This Guide to The Wheel of Life answers the Following:

  1. WHAT is the Wheel of Life and what does it do?
  2. The HISTORY of the Wheel of Life
  3. How to FILL OUT The Life Wheel
  4. So, How Does the Wheel of Life WORK?
  5. How to Use The Wheel of Life in Coaching (With 11 EXAMPLES)
  6. Conclusion
Wheel of Life Categories on Colourful Wheel

The Wheel of Life

What is the Wheel of Life in Coaching, and What Does it Do?

Wheel of Life Definition (for Coaches)

The Wheel of Life is a popular visual tool or worksheet used in coaching to help clients quickly understand how balanced or fulfilled their life is in this moment.

It usually consists of 8-10 categories or areas considered important for a whole or balanced life. Clients rate their level of satisfaction with each area, then map this onto an image of a wheel. This gives them an immediate overview of their current "life balance". Crucially, the life wheel scoring system also allows clients to see right away which areas of their life might need improvement.

The life wheel technique gives clients a helicopter view of how satisfied they are with their life in key predefined life categories such as health, finances and relationships.

For many coaches, including myself, the life balance wheel is a central tool in their coaching practice. And it's a powerful tool in coaching because it provides an instant overview for both coach and client.

Wikipedia describes the Wheel of Life as a coaching tool used in life coaching and management coaching to assess coaching priorities. More than just an assessment, the coaching wheel helps clients become more self-aware and more motivated to make changes and create a fulfilling life. Through self-knowledge, it empowers and gives the client focus and direction.

Coach with Client in Background

Some Personal Thoughts on the Life Balance Wheel

I love the Life Balance Wheel - and believe it's essential to every coach's practice. That's why we offer a Free Wheel of Life Template.

Not only does the wheel help clients quickly assess their current levels of life balance, you can also use it to clarify priorities for goal-setting. You can also use it for a regular (eg. quarterly) life check-in and to review and assess progress with clients.

But don't just use it with your clients! I recommend you use the wheel for you too - it's important as coaches that we walk our talk. So I often use this wheel to check in on how I'm doing, and where I could make some adjustments to my own life balance!

What are the Key Categories on the Wheel of Life?

The Coaching Wheel usually has 8 categories for life balance, although sometimes it has as many as 10. These categories can be changed or the wording customized for each client as needed. In addition, sometimes categories are split into two for more granular scoring.

Here is a list of categories and their common alternatives:

  1. Family and Friends: I usually split "Family and Friends" into "Family" and "Friends". I do this both for myself, and offer it as an option to my clients.
  2. Significant Other: Other category name ideas include "Dating" or "Life Partner".
  3. Career: "Motherhood", "Work" or "Volunteering" are alternative labels you could use.
  4. Finances: Other label name ideas include "Money" or "Financial Security".
  5. Health: The category name could be split into "Emotional" and "Physical".
  6. Home Environment: This category can change to "Work Environment" for career or business clients.
  7. Fun & Leisure: The category name could change to "Recreation".
  8. Personal Growth: The category name could be "Learning" or "Self-Development".

Click to get more ideas for Wheel of Life Categories here.

A Little History of the Wheel of Life Coaching Tool

Who Invented The Wheel of Life?

Early Wheel of Life by Paul J Meyer

Paul J. Meyer's Original Wheel of Life

The original concept of The Wheel of Life is attributed to the late Paul J. Meyer who founded the Success Motivation® Institute in 1960. Paul J. Meyer was a thought leader and coaching industry pioneer. He built many programs to help people achieve their goals, manage time and be a better leader.

Also an entrepreneur, Meyer began and acquired over 40 other companies in a wide range of areas. These include motor racing, commercial and residential real estate, finance, printing and equipment leasing - and many more. Over half of these businesses failed, but he loved a challenge and believed, "Attitude is everything!"

Today, the Coaching Wheel takes on many different visual forms and can be completed on paper as well as online, and on mobile phone apps.

When was the Wheel of Life invented?

It isn't known exactly when the Wheel of Life was invented, but it's likely that it was in the 1960s, shortly after Meyer created the Success Motivation® Institute. Meyer's programs have travelled far and wide and been translated into well over 20 languages.

Meyer's original Life Wheel concept continues at Leadership Management International (another of his businesses) as part of the Total Person® Program. This focuses on goal-setting and creating action plans with the 6 categories of Family and Home, Financial and Career, Mental and Education, Physical and Health, Social and Cultural, Spiritual and Ethical.

Different STYLES of the Life Balance Wheel

While there are many, many design variations, there seem to be only two key styles of the Life Balance Wheel. All the wheels I have seen are plotted out in one of these two ways:

  1. The "Pie" Style: The 'original' style of the coaching wheel looks like slices of a pie or pizza - and it involves drawing a line across each segment to rate each area.
  2. The "Spider Web" Style: The other key style - more often seen with online versions because it's easier for computers to draw - is what I call the "spider web" style. Here the scores are noted on the actual lines for each category, rather than across the segment, creating a spider web effect.

The instructions below refer to the original "Pie" style of the Wheel of Life. I prefer this style as I think the results are clearer and easier to read for both coach and client.

Life Balance Wheel Styles - Pie and Web

Client at desk completing a Coaching Exercise

How to Fill Out The Life Balance Wheel

At The Coaching Tools Company we like to get clients away from devices and distractions. We want to help clients slow down, so they can connect more deeply with themselves and what truly matters. That's why we suggest having your client print out this exercise and fill it in with a pen, rather than complete an online version.

Life Balance Wheel Scoring Example

Overview

When we score our satisfaction levels against each of the wheel categories, this gives us a great helicopter view of what is - and isn't - working for us in life. The client rates their satisfaction with each category on the wheel by simply drawing a line. Then by rating the different segments for satisfaction, your client will clearly see which areas of their life need attention.

Once completed the wheel will likely look 'bumpy'. The client may then choose to set goals or create an action plan around the areas of life where satisfaction is low. Use this tool regularly with the same client to check in with them and you will both clearly see how your client progresses during the coaching relationship. As clients see their lives becoming more balanced they will also see the value of coaching and tools!

How to Use The Wheel of Life (Instructions)

NOTE: These steps are based on the detailed instructions found on page 2 of our Free Wheel of Life Template.

  1. Ask your client to review the 8 categories on their Life Balance Wheel. If necessary they can split or rename category segments to add in something that is missing, or make it more meaningful for them. See this Wheel of Life Categories article for ideas and examples.
  2. Ask them to rank their level of satisfaction with each area of their life by drawing a curved line across each segment (see image for example). Scoring is between 1 (very dissatisfied) and 10 (fully satisfied). TIP: It can be helpful to demonstrate how to draw the line and add each score to their wheel.
  3. The perimeter of the circle represents their "Wheel of Life". Ask your client to look at their completed wheel and ask, "If this was your Wheel of Life, would it be a bumpy ride?"
  4. Coach your client around their learnings from their Coaching Wheel.
  5. Identify at least one action for your client to work on to improve their score in one area of the wheel - and thus improve their life balance.

Coaching Wheel - Image of Paper-based Tool

So, How does the Wheel of Life Coaching Tool Work?

In this busy world, it can be hard to know how we really feel. We tend to look at our lives - and say "Oh yes, I'm happy". But when we get down into the detail, there are often dissatisfactions and areas that can be improved. The Wheel of Life is a great tool to help people understand which areas to work on - and which are already great.

This tool works because it gives a fast, visual overview of how satisfied someone is with their life. The scoring for each segment on the wheel enable both client and coach to see which life areas the client feels good about - and which may need some work.

Ideally, the coach will then dig deeper into the results using coaching questions to discover what specifically is getting in the way of a client's ease and happiness. The next step is often to brainstorm and come up with an action plan.

Then, when action planning, a client will usually prioritise and begin with the areas of their life that have the lowest scores. The goal is to identify actions that will raise their satisfaction levels.

How to use The Wheel of Life in Coaching (with 11 examples)

I believe the Life Balance Wheel is the most flexible tool in any coach's toolbox. It can be used to demonstrate first-hand the power of coaching. And it can also be used as a check-in tool throughout the coaching relationship. It makes a great handout for workshops and can be adapted (through labelling the wheel segments differently, or simply asking coaching questions to delve deeper) to almost any coaching situation - and there are many more ideas below.

Coach with Client using Coaching Tools

Here are 11 ways you can use the Wheel of Life in your Coaching Practice:

  1. With a prospective client. Often potential clients are unclear on exactly what they want a coach to help them with. Sometimes prospective clients may be shy to share personal issues with someone they've only just met. The life balance wheel is a great tool to build trust in the coaching process. It gives an overview of how satisfied the client is with their life, and also demonstrates the power of coaching and self-inquiry.
  2. Set and prioritise goals. Help clients decide which areas they'd like to set goals around. These are usually, but not always, the life wheel areas with lower satisfaction scores. The satisfaction scores can also be used to prioritise which goals to work on first.
  3. Demonstrate progress and the power of coaching. I do a Wheel of Life with all new clients. Then I do another Coaching Wheel with them after about 3 months. The client's life satisfaction scores have almost always increased, sometimes dramatically. This makes the life wheel a great way to demonstrate progress in a coaching relationship! For more details read: A Simple 3 Step Process to Measure Coaching Progress.
  4. As a Life Check-in. The Life Balance Wheel makes a great tool to "check-in" with how people are doing. This can be how they're feeling about their life today, this week or month. And once the client knows how to complete the Wheel of Life, they can use it themselves to see what areas of their life might need a tweak.
  5. As a diagnostic tool to look for sources of stress or dissatisfaction. When a client feels unhappy, frustrated or down, the Wheel of Life scores makes a great start point for discovering what might be bothering them.

Hand Holding Metal Cogs Against Blue Sky

  1. As part of a coaching program. Any time you start a coaching program with a client - whether it's group or individual coaching - the Life Balance Wheel is a great way to "take stock" of a participant's current life situation. We use a version of the coaching wheel called "Brighten Up Your Life" at the beginning of our Renew You, Love Your Life Coaching Program.
    Brighten Up Your Life Coaching Exercise Page 1

    Brighten Up Your Life: Customised for the Renew You Coaching Program!

  2. Use it in Workshops. The Life Balance Wheel makes an excellent introduction to any life coaching workshop. It's also a great tool to help clients understand where their stress is coming from in a stress management workshop. We wrote an article to help coaches just starting out run a short workshop using the life wheel.
  3. Use the Life Balance Wheel to help a client envision how they would like their life to be. Using the 8 key Wheel of Life categories, your client can write in each wheel segment what they would like their life to look like. They could also draw or cut out and paste pictures into each life wheel segment. See more life visioning exercise ideas here.
  4. Include a Life Wheel In your new client's welcome packet! The Life Balance Wheel makes a great tangible coaching tool for clients to complete before starting their coaching sessions with you. Coaches can then review the life wheel results and coach clients deeply in the very first session! That's why we include the Wheel of Life (with instructions) in our top-selling Welcome Pack!
  5. The Coaching Wheel can be used as a way to "test" which goals are most meaningful for a client. Ask the client to score each of their goals according to whether it improves their satisfaction in each of the 8 life wheel categories. Learn more about How to Use the Wheel to Create More Meaningful Goals here.
  6. Customise the Wheel and adapt it to whatever thorny problem your client is having! Simply grab a blank coaching wheel and ask them to add the 8 biggest things stressing them out right now. Then score out of 10 how stressful each thing is. Or ask your client to label the 8 segments with the key things that make them a good mom/dad/leader/friend. Again, they score themselves according to how well they think they are doing in each area. Then derive an action plan to move forwards. For more ideas, find 12 New Ways to Use The Wheel of Life Exercise here.

People in Circle around question mark for Coaching Questions

Coaching Questions - to Boost Results

There are endless possibilities for exploring the Wheel of Life Exercise results with your client. You could choose to look at their life overall and how it feels. Another ideas is to delve into one or more specific segments to understand the source of any issues identified. And you can brainstorm actions to raise their scores - for just a few ideas.

Simply use your coaching skills to coach your client more deeply around their answers. It can be helpful to use the GROW model. Ask your client for a G - Goal for the wheel segment/area you want to improve. Then explore the R - reality of that situation. Next brainstorm some O - Options and finally agree what the client W - Will Do.

Here are 12 Wheel of Life Coaching Questions to Help:

  1. How do you feel about your life as you look at your Wheel?
  2. Are there any surprises for you?
  3. How do you currently spend time in these areas?
  4. How would you like to spend time in these areas?
  5. What would make that a score of 10?
  6. What would a score of 10 look like?
  7. Which of these categories would you most like to improve?
  8. How could you make space for these changes in your life?
  9. What help and support might you need from others to make changes and be more satisfied with your life?
  10. And what change do you want to make first?
  11. What is the smallest step you could take to get started?
  12. If there was one key action that would begin to bring everything into balance, what would it be?

Colourful Ferris Wheel against Blue Sky

How and why to customize the Life Balance Wheel?

Often what holds our clients back is a lack of conscious awareness about a situation. This might be how they feel or how they're getting in their own way. So, while the Wheel of Life Exercise is usually used for life balance; a blank wheel can be used to understand almost any situation more deeply. And once your client is more aware of how they feel - and the factors at play in their current situation - you can coach them to identify actions or goals to improve it.

To Customise the Coaching Wheel:

  • First get yourself a brandable, free version of the customisable Blank Coaching Wheel.
  • Next, decide the topic you'd like to explore with your client.
  • Then, using a blank coaching wheel, ask your client to add a title to the top of the page eg. My Stress Wheel, Leadership Wheel, Relationship Wheel etc.
  • Then ask your client to label the 8 blank wheel segments with what they consider most important in this context.
    • You can also ask them to label the segments with what are the Top 8 contributing factors to the situation.
  • Ask your client to rate their level of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction!) with each of the 8 areas.
  • Choose an area to explore more deeply, or brainstorm actions with them to move forwards with.

3 Young Coaches Holding Coaching Forms

3 Specific Examples of How to Use the Coaching Wheel Differently

  1. Promotion Wheel: Help your clients get that promotion! Ask your client to identify 8 key areas they need to get their promotion. Tip: Your client may need to do some pre-work. Some examples include online research, talking to their boss or reviewing the job specification to identify necessary skills/knowledge. Next ask your client to score how close they are to being seen as fully competent in each area. Then help your client devise an action plan to a) raise their competency levels in the areas they fall short and b) highlight their competence and strengths in areas where they already excel.
  2. Stress Wheel: Help clients identify their sources of stress by labelling the wheel with 8 sources of stress in their life. Next ask your client how much out of 10 each area "stresses them out". Finally, wrap-up by brainstorming an action plan, or identifying 1-3 actions they can commit to, that will reduce their stress.
  3. Parenting Wheel: Help clients prioritise which areas of their parenting to focus on. Ask clients to label a blank wheel with 8 things they consider important to be a good parent. Then ask them to score how well they are doing in each area. Finally, develop an action plan starting with those with the lowest (or even the highest first!) scores.

Some other Coaching Wheel Customisation Ideas

So, that's just a few ways you can customize the Wheel of Life Exercise for specific types of clients to get the most from this incredibly powerful tool!

Coach and Client with image of the Coaching Wheel Exercise

Why Clients love the Coaching Wheel

The wheel is a powerful and ancient symbol - deeply embedded in the human psyche. It suggests movement, the cycle of life, change, the opportunity to steer our life, balance, sustenance and more. I believe this symbolism runs deep in our consciousness.

I also believe the wheel is a client favourite because it gives people an instant helicopter view of their life. This knowledge  allows people to see for themselves which areas of their life feel good - and which need working on. This is empowering! And it allows our clients to make different choices as to where they focus their time and energy for a more satisfying life.

Considerations for using the Life Balance Wheel

Life Balance is personal and unique to each individual; what may be satisfying or balanced for some may be stressful or boring for others. Crucially, the Wheel of Life Exercise raises a client's awareness. It's this that allows the client to plan a more satisfying life that's closer to their own unique definition of balance.

It's also helpful to assess balance over time. A regular check-in (eg. with this exercise) can highlight useful patterns and help your clients learn even more about themselves. You can do this with them, or recommend they do it for themselves.

But remember that balance is rarely achieved for long - as life shifts and changes often. It's helpful to remind clients that the goal is not to "achieve" life balance. Instead the idea is to ensure they are moving "towards" rather than away from it.

Business Man in Grey Suit Runs on Hamster Wheel

Balance and self-care are under-rated skills in our society. As coaches we are therefore perfectly positioned to help clients take better care of themselves. For more on this, you may like Balance & Self-Care: Are We Doing Enough For Our Clients?

"What if the Client has done the Wheel before?"

This is a question I am sometimes asked (probably because I'm so enthusiastic about this tool!). Because it's such a familiar tool to us, we forget that most people have probably never even seen it! And if our client has seen the wheel before - that's great! It means they already know how to complete it, and you can spend more time delving into issues and brainstorming actions!

Another important thing to remember is; even if your clients have done the coaching wheel before, their answers will be different today than when they completed it 3 months ago. What the Life Balance Wheel does is provide an snapshot of people's life satisfaction. And this changes over time - sometimes from one week to the next!

So, if your client has seen this exercise before, it's a benefit! But make sure you're clear why you're using it with them. This means ensuring they know what they're going to get out of doing it again with you!

"How can I use the Wheel of Life Exercise with Phone-Based Clients?"

At The Coaching Tools Company we want to get people off devices and using pen and paper. So although we've looked at creating an online version of the wheel - we don't want to! This is because people already spend so much time on laptops/tablets and phones. An online version would keep people connected online when we want them connected to themselves!

"Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself" Rupi Kaur

So, what's the easiest way to work with paper-based tools if you're working with clients over the phone?

  1. Email the digital tool for your client to print out.
  2. Once they've completed the form, ask your clients to take a picture with their cellphones.
  3. Lastly, they can message, text or email the picture of their completed form back to you. Simple!

This is an easy solution because people are now used to using their phones for EVERYthing. It's not technology that's inherently bad, instead it's all about how we use it. This has worked like a charm for me, and gives the best of both worlds!

Lastly, another idea is to send in the life balance wheel via (snail) mail in your Welcome Packet. This is what I did when starting out with my new clients - see 7 Suggestions For a Client Enrollment Process that Rocks for more ideas.

Conclusion:

The Wheel of Life Assessment is an extremely powerful and flexible tool. However you use the wheel, it gives people an insight into themselves. And this understanding gives people clarity - and motivation - to make changes and improve their lives.

What turns the life wheel into a power-tool is when a client is coached to explore their results more deeply. This means asking questions that raise a client's awareness about how they feel - and what matters most to them. And importantly, it also means discovering where they sabotage themselves. Then when coaching expands to include brainstorming and committing to actions - a client feels powerful and motivated!

Using the coaching wheel can be just the beginning of a long and meaningful relationship between coach and client! And it's a great tool to kick-off the relationship as you mean to continue - powerfully!

Image of Free Wheel of Life and link to get it

PS. Did you know we also have the Wheel of Life Exercise available FREE in Spanish? No hay necesidad de reinventar la rueda - get *La Rueda de la Vida* Con Instrucciones

Emma-Louise Elsey HeadshotEmma-Louise Elsey has been a coach for over 15 years. She's a huge coaching fan and the founder of The Coaching Tools Company.com. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her passion for coaching, creativity and love of systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 25+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools, resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is also an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Did we miss something? Is there a question about you'd like answered? Simply comment below!

For other Wheel of Life uses, see the Buddhist Wheel of life (disambiguation)

If you liked this article all about the Life Balance Wheel, you may also like:

For a comprehensive overview of coaching tools you may also like our Complete Guide to Coaching Tools.

Image of Smiling coach with clipboard and client in background on computer by michaeljung

Image of Pie Style Wheel by magic pictures

Image of Web Style Wheel by Angie Ramos

Image of Client Completing Assessment at Desk by WAYHOME studio

Image of Coach and Client working together - for 11 Ways to use Wheel by Iakov Filimonov

Image of Hand holding cogs against blue sky by geralt

Image of Colourful people in circle around question mark by qimono

Image of Colourful Ferris Wheel against blue sky by imnoom

Image of 3 Coaches Holding Clipboards with Coaching Assessments by pixelheadphoto digitalskillet

Image of Client and Coach in atrium working together by Monkey Business Images

Image of Person in grey business suit running in hamster wheel by Elnur

4 Comments

  1. Ellen Kocher

    I really liked this thorough and pragmatic article, thank you. I am such a believer in the "Wheels" approach, that I recently published a blog with the National Wellness Institute using the "Wheels" even further. It has been used to adapt the Health Coaching Master's Curriculum at Maryland University of Integrative Health and I will be presenting the concept elaborated in an ICF Coaches Workshop in October. I would love your thoughts and if you are interested in adapting it as a follow-up to your piece, just let me know! Thanks for your always great content.

    https://www.nationalwellness.org/blogpost/1644820/308961/Coaches-Let-s-Get-These-Wheels-Rolling?hhSearchTerms=%22wheel%22&terms=
    Warm regards, Ellen

    Reply
    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Ellen, I'm so glad you liked this article! We love the life wheel technique - so powerful and flexible! Thank-you for your suggestion. Warmly, Emma-Louise

      Reply

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