The “wheel of life” is a powerful tool that will not only help you to evaluate each aspect of your life, but it will also help you to set goals in your areas of personal and professional interest, and live a balanced life.
The first time I did this exercise I was surprised … Although I already had an idea, it was the first time that I put on paper and in a quite conscious way the relevant areas of my life and how I distributed my energy and my time in each one of them…
I realized that I dedicated 90% of my energy to my work. Though it was a job that I was very passionate about and enjoyed, I was disappointed with the result I got after filling the wheel… It was not what I expected in my life, there were so many areas that were also important to me and that I didn’t spend the time to get the results I wanted…
For example, one of the areas I wanted to reinforce was “sports”. Thus, I decided I wanted to adjust this aspect of my life and I set a very ambitious goal … I decided I wanted to run a marathon, I designed an action plan combining training hours with the rest of my duties … I managed to run a marathon!
The wheel of life provides a visual map for you to see how you distribute your energy, where you are satisfied, and where you are falling behind, so that you know where you need to make the necessary adjustments.
Every aspect of life works together. If one area is weak, it may affect the other areas as well, that is why it is important that you master every area of your life.
Every person is different. Therefore, not all wheels of life are the same … Your wheel of life must contain all the aspects that you consider important for you in order to have a balanced and satisfying life. I invite you to build a wheel of life that reflects the life you desire and you dare to include your interests, hobbies, personal care, etc.
This is how a typical wheel of life looks like,
A 360º view
Usually, some of the aspects it may contain are career, finances, health, relationships, family, friends, self-care, sports, hobbies, etc…
In the wheel you must add the important areas of your life. Once you have identified these areas, you must fill in the degree of dedication and satisfaction in each of these areas. Your satisfaction with each area should be rated between 1 and 10. Finally, make an estimate of the total time you spend in each area, that is, 30%, 50%, whatever you consider to be applicable in each case.
Thus, the wheel of life will not only help you assess and balance your life in general, it is also a very powerful tool to assess what your current situation is at your work and visualize what situation you would like to have. This will be your starting point for establishing a roadmap for your career.
As I said before, each person is different, therefore the important or interesting aspects for you may be different from those of your colleagues. It will depend on what stage of your career you are in, and what are your expectations.
For instance, if you are a senior researcher, maybe you would like to include in your circle aspects such as funding (grants, projects…), lab time, innovation (research topics, experimental design…), supervising students, publishing (articles, books), conferences, literature search, teaching, reviewing, mentoring, collaborations, networking, group dynamics…Choose a set of appropriate segment names, but to keep it manageable, don’t choose more than 10.
First, take a 360º view of your life and build your wheel identifying the aspects of your life where you currently invest your energy. Second, fill in each area according to the degree of satisfaction you have in each one. And third, assign the percentage of time you dedicate to each area. Fourth, once you finish the exercise, set achievable goals for each area of your life.
When setting goals, set goals that are SMART, i.e. Specific (simple, sensible, significant), Measurable (meaningful, motivating), Achievable (agreed, attainable), Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based) and Time bound (time-based, time limited).
Once you have established your goals, set an action plan to achieve them.
What are you waiting for to create your wheel of life? Please, take some time to do it consciously. Once you do it, you may ask yourself:
● Where would you like to invest your energy in a different way since the current results do not compensate you?
● What would your ideal wheel of life look like?
Take the time to assess and celebrate your professional achievements, set new goals for the next academic year, and visualize your next steps.