Breaking down wheels of life to get to the hub of coaching with a client-centered approach to rolling toward goals and beyond!
“There are many spokes on the wheel of life. First, we're here to explore new possibilities.” - Ray Charles
Some claim that the “Wheel of Life” has been around for over a thousand years. In modern day coaching and personal development, the “Wheel of Life” is a visual tool frequently used to identify the dimensions or aspects of one’s life arranged in a circle around a center like spokes of a wheel. The full circle defined this way, or the wheel, represents the whole of one’s life or one’s self.
A typical “Wheel of Life” exercise used in coaching entails assessing, with the client, the strength of each spoke to see how balanced the wheel as a whole feels at a given moment in time. Since unbalanced wheels are more likely to wobble and crash, this exercise is useful to help identify potential source areas of imbalance. Though such wheels are commonly used to initiate the focus for coaching work, I believe that they can be further developed, refined, and then utilized throughout the entire coaching process to support both client clarity of direction and optimal growth. In addition, this succession gives coaches a simple means for putting into practice many of the core competencies established by the International Coaching Federation and other global coaching organizations.
In this article I illustrate this process with a “Wellness Wheel” because I believe that anyone can easily relate to personal health and wellbeing and, consequently, the method will be easy to follow. Though such “Wellness Wheels” are commonly used by health and wellness coaches, this Wheeling approach can be applied to any type of coaching. Ready to roll?
The Wellness Wheel(s)
Figure 1: The Six Dimensions of Wellness
A Wellness Wheel typically includes all dimensions or areas of an individual's life that constitute overall health and wellness. One recognized and reputed Wellness Wheel, is called the “Six Dimensions of Wellness”, developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute. Hettler’s Wheel divides wellness into the following six dimensions: Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Spiritual and Emotional (Figure 1).
Any coach can imagine working through each of these dimensions using open-ended questions, inquiry, and listening skills to guide clients toward their current priorities. Most coaches can also easily imagine using the Wheel as a visual tool for raising awareness, in our clients’ minds, of the inter-connectedness of each spoke as questions and answers in each area overlap and blur perfect boundaries between sections. Typically, a coach would then assist the client in breaking down the spoke of a chosen focus to drive momentum for behavior change in that area, using the wheel as a visual tool for upcoming sessions. Here’s another approach I propose: What if, at this point, instead of just coaching, we made another wheel?
Figure 2: Four Dimensions of Physical Wellness
Let’s just say, for example, that our client chose “Physical Wellness” as the priority area of focus. The coach could then work with the client to create a second wheel representing the client’s vision of personalized “Dimensions of Physical Wellness”. An example of the way this second wheel might be broken down is shown in Figure 2. The client’s chosen dimensions might be: Nutrition, Physical Activity, Sleep and Mindfulness. Some clients, or coaches, might nudge the conversation toward other dimensions depending on how both define and explore Physical Wellness.
Working with a client and this personalized Physical Wellness Wheel, balance can be explored again, and it becomes easy for both client and coach to visualize where behavioral change might begin. As a result, the coaching process has more specific direction in perfect synchronicity with the client’s understanding of wellness and desired focus.
Figure 3: Eight Dimensions of Nutrition
At this point, it is possible to continue with traditional coaching around the client-identified area of focus. Alternately, one could “roll” out yet another wheel! For example, based on the prior wheel, perhaps the client discovers a readiness and willingness to prioritize nutrition. How about a “Nutrition Wellness Wheel”? This wheel might include segments such as:: Fruit, Vegetables, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, Water, Drinks, Mindful Eating and Micronutrients (Figure 3). Again, the client can be in charge of identifying the wheel’s spokes, perhaps adding fast-food, snacking, alcohol, or other pertinent segments.to their personalized wheel.
Ready to Roll!
With the degree of specificity achieved using a succession of wheels, the coach and client can work through the third (Nutrition) Wheel spoke-by-spoke, with the coach eliciting the client’s understanding, information requirements, values and challenges in relation to each area. The coach might also provide education or resources, as requested and appropriate, to raise awareness about current and optimal states, thus driving momentum for change to the point at which the client has sufficient understanding and clarity to create SMART objectives.
Figure 4: Carbohydrates Smart Goals
So why not another wheel at this point? The client is accustomed to the approach by now, and this is where the “rubber meets the road”! Let’s assume this client chose to focus behavior change action steps on carbohydrates. The coach and client can now “roll out” goals, breaking down the focus (Carbohydrate) topic into client-identified SMART objectives, which might be, for example, those identified in Figure 4: switch to whole wheat bread, use my fist to determine my carbohydrate portion size, increase complex carbohydrate intake to twice weekly, and replace white carbs with pulses/legumes twice weekly. Now this fourth wheel has also become a clear guide to action steps as well as a monitoring/accountability mechanism for the client to work with until next session. The client has been engaged by the process of creating the wheel that then “rolls into action” as both a visual reminder of how to “steer” toward goals and as a “compass” or “GPS” to check on direction at any given moment. For the coach, this wheel can be referred to in the following session(s) when discussing progress and exploring further forward movement.
In the example I have created in this article, the client is always at the center of the coaching process – the driver “at the wheel,” empowered to steer a personalized route. By co-developing a series of wheels throughout the coaching process, exploration stays simple, focused, clear, and rolling full circle in the client’s chosen direction. At any time, the coach and client can roll backward to drive the coaching toward another spoke or even toward another wheel. Using such a creative succession of wheels in collaboration with our clients allows us to put into practice many of the core competencies established by the International Coaching Federation including Co-creating the Relationship, Communicating Effectively, Facilitating Learning and Results, Creating Awareness, Designing Actions, Planning and Goal Setting and Managing Progress and Accountability. So, are we on a roll here? I would love your thoughts!
A sincere acknowledgement for her encouragement and editing support to Elizabeth Ahmann, ScD, RN, PCC, NBC-HWC, Health and Wellness Coaching Department, Maryland University of Integrative Health
Ellen Koche is an American-Swiss Certified Health Coach. After 10 demanding years in the Finance Industry, Ellen lost 20 kilos through nutrition and lifestyle change and has dedicated the past 15 years to health coaching and to workplace wellness. Through her company, Whealthness, she has coached individuals and groups in over 20 worldwide organizations to go from “knowing what to do to actually doing it!” with their self-care.