Coaching Tools 101: How to Use the Wheel of Life to Create MEANINGFUL Goals!

Happy Client at Desk working on meaningful goals on notepad

How often have you seen clients more excited by the prospect of a new home, high powered job, brand new car or designer pair of shoes than the thought of quality time with a child, partner or friends?

When our hearts beat faster like this, we often mistake desire for our heart's deep inner needs. But as coaches know, our desires and our heart's true needs can be very different. And when our clients finally see this for themselves, it can be literally life-changing for them.

The Wheel of Life Template is not just a powerful check-in and action planner. Below I share a method of using the Wheel of Life to help people see where they may be unknowingly sabotaging their happiness by focusing on the 'wrong' kind of goals. This method can also help clients prioritise their goals in life.

So, here's one way the Wheel of Life Template can help our clients create meaningful goals—and perhaps have an 'Aha moment' too...

Want to know more about The Wheel of Life? Try The Complete Guide to the Wheel of Life >>

How to Use the Wheel of Life Template to Identify Meaningful Goals


The exercise below helps people differentiate between desires (often born from fear, or from needing to bolster our sense of self) and the heart (our deep inner needs). It is a scoring exercise—but it's so much more than a straight left-brained 'pros and cons' evaluation. This scoring process helps people see what will TRULY make a difference in their lives as opposed to what they THINK will improve their lives.

The 5 Simple Steps

  1. First, get your client to list or brainstorm their goals in life. One great way to do this is to ask them to, "List everything they want to Be, Do and Have in Life".
    TIP: I call this the "Wacky Wild Brainstorming List" and ask clients to write everything they can think of to "Be, Do or Have", no matter how wacky or wild!
    TIP: You can do this in session, but it's great to give this step as homework beforehand.
  2. Next, ask your client to take each item or goal and using the standard Wheel of Life template categories ask, "Will achieving this goal improve my satisfaction in this area?"

    Tally marks

  3. Then for each "Be/Do/Have" or goal on their list, ask your client to give that item ONE point for EACH area on the Wheel of Life that is improved.
    TIP: Using check or tally marks where people make a vertical line for each point, then striking through diagonally on the 5th point to create groups of 5 works well.
    TIP: ½ points can also be allocated if appropriate.
  4. Keep going until each Be/Do/Have or goal has been scored against all the Wheel of Life categories.
  5. Now review with your client which Be/Do/Haves or goals get the highest and lowest scores. Great questions to ask include:
    • What do they notice about their scores?
    • What have they learned about themselves?
    • How do they feel after doing this exercise?
    • How does this exercise affect the priority they will place on their goals going forwards?
    • If you were to prioritise your Top 3 (or 5) goals from this list, which goals would you choose?

What about SMART Goals? See our Complete Guide to SMART Goals here >>

Helpful Example

Let's assume two of the items on a client's list are 1) Buy a Porsche and 2) Be a great father.
(OK, so I know YOU know the answer here and your client may 'intellectually' know the answer, but let's see how this goes.)

Score each goal against the Wheel of Life Categories

1) Porsche: Will it improve their Finances? No. Will it improve their relationships with family and friends? Probably not. Will it improve their Career? Unlikely. Will it improve their Fun? Yes (score 1). The Porsche is scored against every area until, let's say they get a score of 1½ out of a possible 8.
2) Be a great father: Well, it may not improve their finances much or their career (although you never know) but it will help their relationships, fun, perhaps health, definitely personal growth etc. So let's say being a father gets a score of 6½ out of 8.

Review: Well, there it is in black and white—they key to a happy and balanced life! Porsche 1 ½, Being a great father 6½. NOW your client can make an informed choice on what they choose to prioritise and work on.

I have used this exercise countless times with clients and they have always learned something about themselves and what really matters. There have been 'Aha' Moments ranging from literally realising how important it is to be a great father to finally getting help with clutter in the home (it was huge!) to why saving up to go to the casino really is a bad idea. This exercise helps our clients SEE FOR THEMSELVES. It helps them understand and get closer to their real selves (heart) as opposed to being driven by desires, trying to please or impress (head). It's all about making MEANINGFUL change in their lives.

Shortcomings and Who to use this exercise with

This exercise is helpful for anyone interested in finding meaning in life and goal-setting. And it works particularly well with left-brained, logical people—especially those working (too) hard, who have a lot of fear around change, who lack meaning in their lives, who have unhelpful habits—and those who are status-seeking. So it can be good with driven executives and business owners who want more balance in their lives!

However, using logic to win over emotion rarely works. And this exercise does indeed use a very logical "scoring method" to help people see that their desires—often things to "do or have" (which can be very exciting) probably won't make them happy.

But when someone who is already open to the idea of "being a better person" sees the "facts" in black and white, it can create a powerful "Aha!" moment which creates lasting change.  They may still buy the Porsche, but perhaps they will prioritise being a good father by postponing the Porsche and taking an amazing family holiday, perhaps they will choose to work less overtime, maybe they will put the money aside for a college fund instead. And maybe nothing changes at all—on the outside...

The change in outlook following this exercise might be immediate, it might be gradual or it may be that in 3 years they have an "Aha!" moment that leads back to the understanding they gained from this exercise. Because once your client has this information—they can't unknow it. They can only ignore it...

Enjoy this article?

This technique is used in our 3 page Wacky Wild Goal Brainstorming! Tool which takes clients through the exercise in this article and then helps them pick up to 10 focus areas that could be turned into goals.

You might also love our Vision & Goal-Setting Toolkit

Love Goal-Setting? Get 10 awesome Coaching Tools (including the Wacky Wild Goal Brainstorming Tool) PLUS User Guide. Help clients envision, set exciting and meaningful goals, commit and take action!

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ 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 for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Happy Client at Desk working on meaningful goals on notepad by Kraken Images

Image of Person holding heart by Liza54500 via Shutterstock


  1. yasemin

    the method and a very clear example makes this article very useful for me, thanks a lot for sharing your experience


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