If we talk about powerful tools in coaching, we should start with the universal balance wheel. It represents the most flexible application tool that can be customized for a specific client, adapting it to different purposes.
The balance wheel in the coach’s work: how and why to use it
It was invented by Paul J. Mayer. He spent his whole life working on issues of motivating people to unlock their potential and even founded the legendary Success Motivation Institute. The equipment, in demand all over the world, has several names:
- The wheel of life.
- The coaching wheel.
- The wheel of life balance.
- The wheel of balance.
- The circle of human needs.
- The wheel of roles in coaching is a transformed art technique, when the roles of a person that he plays in life (blogger, husband, brother, son, department director, friend, and so on) fit into the sectors.
This is one of the most powerful tools used everywhere in coaching, as it is extremely simple and understandable, both in the context of working with client requests, and in the self-development of the coach himself. This is a visual tool that helps you quickly and clearly understand how balanced life is. The essence of the wheel is to use it not on a one-time basis, but on a regular basis, at different periods to track dynamics and changes. Let’s figure out how it works, how to work with it effectively in coaching practice.
Spheres of life in the wheel
In the traditional version, the wheel consists of 8-10 spheres that a person considers important for a harmonious and fulfilling life. Personal adjustment in collaborative practice assumes that a person independently chooses the optimal formulations, can group or divide spheres in their own discretion:
- Health (sports, fitness classes, beauty).
- Work (career growth, your own business, specialization).
- Family (relationship with partner, husband, parents, communication with children).
- Self-development (personal and spiritual growth, self-realization).
- Hobbies (creative realization, interests).
- Money (financial resources, success, abundance).
- Home (habitat where I would like to live).
- Recreation (places for recreation and entertainment, leisure).
- Communication (contact with friends, supportive environment, clubs and sections).
The very identification and awareness of the importance of specific areas, their clear structuring helps to make an individual map of life.
Evolution of the balance wheel
The original concept of Paul J. Mayer, the ideological inspirer and pioneer of the coaching industry, appeared according to assumptions in the 60s, although the exact date is unknown. The original version was part of the Holistic Personality Program in another of Paul’s businesses. He emphasized goal setting and developing an action plan simultaneously in 6 contexts:
- Home and family relationships.
- Career development and money.
- Education and self-development.
- Health and taking care of your own body.
- Culture and society.
- Ethical and spiritual development.
The modern coaching wheel has naturally undergone changes as part of its “evolution”, opening up a wide field for creativity. 9-10 categories are often used, and their names may change, depending on the client and his wishes. Often, categories are not only modified, but also divided in two in order to work out and “scale” each segment in more detail.
In European practice , the following classical set of categories is used:
- Friends and Family – this block is usually divided in two to consider each sector in detail.
- Relationships – can be divided into additional sections: «Dating», «Relationship with husband», «Interaction with boyfriend» and so on.
- Career. The coach can transform the sector, taking into account the clients’ needs. For example, it can be considered in the context of motherhood, career growth, volunteering in animal rescue.
- The sector with money can also be divided into several levels: «Financial sustainability», «Investment», «Wages».
- «Health» – it is often divided into levels of emotional and physical health in practice.
- The environment – division also reflects a person’s life. «Friends», «Colleagues», «Partners», «Working staff», if the manager makes up the wheel of life balance, and so on.
- Recreation and entertainment – this sector is often used as a «Recovery» in the context of rest from hard everyday life.
- The block of personal growth. The division is different in each case: «Self-education», «Training», «Development» and so on.
Of course, the wheel of life balance is still most often used with a simple and specific designation of sectors, but the tool is flexible, and it can be modified, transformed at its discretion, so that the client can independently choose the life spheres of interest, naming them as he likes, as it is clear.
Coaching wheel: top view
Why do all maps of the area have a top view (we may remember this from geography and orientation lessons at school)? Because from this perspective you can perfectly see and assess all objects at the same time. The perspective provides an opportunity to develop a tactical and strategic vision of life in the process of drawing up the wheel, in order to subsequently make informed decisions, set goals based on the full «picture». To do this:
- Draw a simple circle.
- Divide it into sectors, taking into account the areas that the client has highlighted.
- Apply a traditional scale (from 0 to 10) to the sectors.
- The client should rate his degree of satisfaction with the spheres. It is crucial to understand the meaning and feeling that a person has behind the numbers.
- You can visualize it in a playful way, which often facilitates the process: in the form of «pieces of pie», «sliced pizza» or «spider web».
The Wheel of needs Template
What is life balance? It’s a fascinating and interesting life according to its own rules. If this is not the case, the wheel of life balance will help to see the «gaps» and gradually take back control of your destiny. The essence of the exercise is very simple:
- Draw a circle of life balance – this is a regular circle.
- Think over the areas to be considered. Their number can be any.
- Break up the circle as if you’re cutting a large pizza. Imagine that each sector is one of the spheres of life. You can use the ones listed above or come up with your own.
- Rate the current state of each of the spheres on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is very bad (terrible), and 10 is super!
- When all the sectors have been processed, you will see the life balance wheel (yours or the client’s, if the session is conducted in coaching).
The circle of human needs is easy to visualize and transform, as an example, here’s the simplest model:
How to compose?
Making a circle of human needs is both simple and difficult at the same time! To do this, you need to go through several steps:
- Identifying the spheres that make up life and their breakdown into “sublevels” for more thorough and in-depth study.
- Assessing the level of satisfaction of each of the identified spheres at this stage.
- The essence of the exercise is not only to see what is happening now, but also to improve the “subsiding” spheres, so you need to set goals for each sector and its sublevel that can increase the level of assessment.
- The most important thing is the fulfillment of the set goals for the harmonization of life and its balance.
- After that, you can go back to the exercise and make a new wheel, checking for the presence of dynamics (both positive and negative).
How to work with the balance wheel?
It’s not enough just to draw one circle, to work out the balance wheel once. The essence of the work is to:
- Connect all adjacent segments together to get an inner wheel.
- Evaluate how round it is, whether you (or your client) have serious dips and bulges on the wheel.
- The area that is in short supply, which has the least points, is the main source of worries and frustration.
The main secret of personal growth is to develop evenly on each item, so the task is to bring all sectors to the same level, align the wheel, making it round, achieving that very balance. You should make a list of tasks to pull up the sagging edges, as they affect the development of others. For example: a client «pulls up» health and sports, which inevitably has a positive effect on other sectors: business, relationships, travel, and so on.
The smoother the balance wheel is after pulling and solving the tasks, working out the goals, the faster and more effectively personal growth will «start», and positive changes will be noticeable. To do this, it is necessary to correctly (later we will tell you how to do this) set goals and objectives by wheel categories. It is very important to do this in all areas, and not just in the sagging ones, in order to see the rapid transformation of the current «picture» of life.
What’s next? Painstaking and sometimes hard work to achieve your goals. As soon as the tasks are solved, the spheres will gradually begin to move forward, so it is necessary to repeat the exercise periodically and draw the balance wheel again, evaluating the changes (for example, do it once a month). At the same time, one should be aware of the fact that:
- There is no perfect balance. Over time, you can add new segments to it. You grow, and the balance wheel changes with you.
- There is no ideal circle of human needs. It is in motion all the time, just like the person himself.
- Wanting to “improve everything at once” doesn’t work. It takes time and real work.
- Consider the cyclical nature of life. For example, in the summer, the zone of self-study and career can be very «sagging». But at the peak of satisfaction there will be rest, communication, hobbies. This does not mean that something needs to be changed urgently. There is a time to sow, and there is a time to gather fruit. That is why it is so important to draw the wheel periodically to see where the subsidence in the balance and changes come from. Sometimes – this is the norm!
- Take into account the static nature of the wheel, a cast of the state at a particular moment. Tomorrow you may get a completely different impression.
- The balance wheel is only a tool for analysis, and it will not be able to achieve goals and work with obstacles. All this should be done by a person!
Why is it worth using the technique?
The balance wheel technique allows you to prioritize, see a real picture of where your life is at the moment. Often people are not ready to look deep into the problem, they seem to push it out of consciousness, so they cannot improve those aspects that are «invisible» to them. Life is «skewed» because we ourselves tilt it, like a boat, from side to side, strengthening those sides that are already strong, paying attention only to those activities that do not lead to growth and satisfaction in any way.
It is worth using this exercise, since it highlights a priority set of life aspects for working out and ordering life in all spheres. With the help of the balance wheel, you can quickly prioritize, understand where there are problems, make a strategic plan to deal with them through goal setting and daily life management to improve its quality.
Development vectors and progress
How to see the vectors for further development and understand where to move for progress? When a client marks the degree of satisfaction with a particular segment on the wheel, he gets a panoramic view from above of what works for them and what works against them! Despite the name, the figure that turns out in the end is not at all like a wheel. It is impossible to have the highest score in all areas – and this is okay!
After the exercise, you should honestly and openly analyze the results, since this is the main point:
- Which areas are sagging and, first of all, need transformation and development?
- Is there a need for the development of the sphere (or spheres) that scored the lowest in the assessment?
- What actions should be taken to increase the level of satisfaction by at least 1 point?
- Are there any areas where transformation is 100% dependent only on a person?
- Which segment in the wheel is now a priority, and which is not so important?
- Find the spheres in the balance wheel whose score affects the rest?
- The client must identify the segments that are always important to him.
- Identification of areas that you want to start developing immediately, as well as those that you can do later.
- If you get 10 in this area, how will it affect the others?
The balance wheel can be used in the work of a coach as a vector of movement, to indicate the points “A” and “B”. By answering the questions presented above, your client will be able to draw up a clear and step-by-step action plan, set achievable goals for the session. Plus, based on the wheel, compiled individually, the coach tracks the current progress, and the client can visually assess the effectiveness of actions.
The weakest link
An interesting method that helps to find and work out the main obstacle. Here we go 3 steps deeper into the sector that turned out to be the weakest.
What exactly we do:
- We evaluate the spheres and identify the weakest link. For example, dissatisfaction with finances, the quality of relationships with colleagues suffers, and so on.
- We do one more wheel on this sector, and find the weakest link in it. For example, self-confidence.
- We do one more wheel on the topic of confidence, for example, and find the reasons. We choose the most significant, for example, the fear of communicating with strangers, and we work on it.
The method allows us to visually trace how one or another of our decisions affects the quality of our entire life. It really helps to sort everything out in situations of complex multifactorial choice.
- Formulate all options for solving an important issue for you. You can also sort out closed questions that assume the answer is «Yes» or «No».
- Take each option and relate it to each sphere of life. Note how your satisfaction will change as a result of making that particular decision. For example, 0 – will not change, 1 – will change, 2 – will change a lot. You can take any scale of changes.
Set the right goals
It’s not enough just to set goals – you need to do it right! To do this, we have prepared a mini checklist that will help in this:
- The goal should be formulated correctly – positively and in an affirmative way. It should define what a person wants to get, not what he wants to get rid of. How to immediately understand that the wording is incorrect? If there is a negation in it (the particle «not»). It is wrong to say «Do not smoke». That’s right: «I control the craving for cigarettes», «I quit smoking!»
- The goal should relate personally to the person and be under his personal control. For example, you can’t write «My wife loves me more». It is more logical to set a goal: «I am doing everything to bring the relationship with my wife to a new level».
- The goal can be described in sensory language, specifically: «When I reach my goal, I will feel (what to feel?), speak (what to say?), hear (what to hear?)» etc.
- You should make sure that all the conditions under which the objectives will be implemented are taken into account.
- Goals should be ambitious and evoke emotions, inspiration, motivation to move forward.
- Eco-friendliness – we are talking about the fact that the goals set for the transformation of the balance wheel should be creative. Measure the outcome with the benefits and losses that may be on the way, what will be the consequences? If a person is not ready for this, it is worth changing the wording.
- Having access to the necessary resources – think about what funds will be needed along the way, analyze what else, what tools will be needed.
- What are the obstacles and barriers? These should definitely be taken into account.
- Defining the first steps for transformation. It is best to immediately define 3 real things that will bring the person doing the exercise closer to the goal.
- The formation of a «pool» of awards, as this is one of the key components on the way to the goal.
The most effective way is to fill the wheel by hand. You can take a ready-made template, but the client himself marks the levels in the spheres on it. This allows you to establish contact with your «self», immerse yourself in the process, understand what is important to them. Then it will be possible to use online constructors when there is understanding and awareness. Using the wheel on an ongoing basis, you can see the progress in coaching interaction. When observing positive dynamics and bringing the wheel to balance, the client evaluates the significance of the sessions and the tools used on them.