In this modern world, we have so many more possibilities and flexibility in our choices. Success is no longer the defaulted definition our past generations defined by status, wealth, zip codes, titles, prestige, VIP events, children, etc. That’s why I love using the wheel of life exercise to define success on your own terms.

Using the Wheel of Life to Define Success on Your Own Terms

I recently read a status update on my LinkedIn, posted by a recruiter who said he cold-called a candidate about a new opportunity. Assessing the candidate’s background, he knew he had all of the right skills and qualifications, and the opportunity would elevate him on the career ladder. The candidate politely declined and said, “Thanks, but I’m not interested.”

Probing further, the candidate responded with, “I have already climbed to the top of my career ladder.” Confused, the recruiter double-checked his background and saw he was an individual contributor, had never managed any direct reports, and the title wasn’t anywhere near one of a leadership role.

The candidate then explained he loved his job, loved his company, was treated fairly and with respect, made a comfortable salary with exceptional benefits, had flexibility, and most importantly, he never missed a single baseball game, dance recital, anniversary, birthday, or other family events. His career ladder was complete.

What Does a Successful Life and Career Look Like to You?

I love this story because we tend to get caught up in what society accepts and defines as successful. By society’s standards, dentists and investment bankers are successful, yet I can’t help but wonder why dentists and investment bankers have high suicide rates and divorces, respectively. Society has labeled educated, six-figure salary homeowners as successful.

For the candidate described above, achieving work-life balance while providing for his family was his definition of success. Those that have high-profile positions or higher responsibility may be required to work overtime, have difficult conversations, travel more, etc. This candidate was very clear on his values and let his values guide him in his decision-making process.

Activity: The Wheel of Life Exercise

So, without any judgment or fear of what others’ opinions of you, I want to go through an exercise. In this exercise, there is only one rule: be extremely honest with yourself.

Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Print out the Wheel of Life worksheet in the Resource Library (click image above). You’ll notice this Wheel of Life already has 8 different categories of your life to evaluate.

Step 2: Edit the categories.
Feel free to change the headings to whatever feels most aligned with your terms. For instance, perhaps friends and family are two separate buckets, you can change ‘home environment’ to family. If you don’t care to evaluate ‘fun & leisure’, you can change that heading to Volleyball Tournaments. Basically, you’re switching out the headings to make sure your 8 most important aspects in your life are listed.

Step 3: Define success for each of the 8 categories. Now that you have your new headings on the Wheel of Life, go through each triangle and define success. If you were to have reach the maximum score of 10, what would you have done, seen, felt, heard, etc.? Get as specific and as clear as you can. In other words, if the closest person to you was looking in on your life, how would they know you’ve reached the top of your ladder? Write your statement in the present tense.

Family: I have a successful relationship (10) in my family because I’m communicating daily with my daughter; she is so open with me and is respectful and honest. My family always eats together at the dinner table and my husband chats with me privately every hour before bed. We go on one international family vacation a year and everyone is excited about it.

Step 4: Evaluate. When you have your 10’s defined, go through and now evaluate where you are in relation to that goal. 0’s would be complete opposite, 5’s would be neutral – not great, not good, ‘just fine’. Try to avoid rating a 5 if possible.

Write the number along the line and feel free to color inside the lines so you can obtain a very clear visual of what areas you want to improve.

Insights and Next Steps from the Wheel of Life

If one area of your life improves, all of the others will be affected in a very positive way. Please note the lowest score doesn’t always have to be the highest priority. You may not be ready to tackle that quite yet, and that’s okay. It’s completely fine to do this exercise as often as you would like to. As our days and years evolve, we do too!

Step 5: Analyze and Goal Setting. What you will want to assess next is what obstacles are in the way for the areas you would consciously and actively like to improve. List out the obstacles and try to determine what the next specific action steps you can take are. Create a plan and set deadlines of when you would like to reach each goal/action by.

Remember, successes and 10’s are going to be defined differently for everyone. But if you can consciously reflect and think about what the ultimate success looks like for you, you’re already better off than most people out there!

P.S. – If you would like additional support in helping you reach your 10’s, don’t forget to schedule a free 45-minute consultation as I coach ambitious professionals just like you to reach their 10’s!

wheel of life




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