I’d like to spend a few minutes discussing spokes and hubs, and the wheels they so often combine to form. In the context of our exploration of natural health, I’d like to focus on one wheel in particular, a wheel that comes to us from contemporary psychology and personal development counseling. The wheel I refer to is known as the Wheel of Life.
The Wheel of Life, a somewhat weighty phrase, is probably familiar to you. It has several uses and meanings, depending on context. A common use of the phrase is as a metaphor to describe our human interconnectedness. Another is to use the phrase to describe the gradual passing of people and time, and the common thread of milestones that occur and re-occur in our lives. The idea of the Wheel of Life also arises in various east Asian religions and philosophical schools.
For our discussion, my use of the phrase, Wheel of Life, will have a specific meaning. When I use this phrase, I intend to describe a particular and widely used tool of modern psychology and development counseling that carries this name. Like other tools psychologists and counselors use, the Wheel of Life is an exercise designed to aid self-examination and promote new and more powerful personal choices in our lives.
Empowering ourselves through self-examination and new conscious choice is integral to HumanaNatura and the practice we call Natural Living. If you want to acquaint yourself with some of the key ideas and goals of personal development, you can review another article in the HumanaNatura library, entitled “Understanding Personal Empowerment”. You may also wish to read the Natural Living section of the HumanaNatura natural health program, if you have not already.
If you familiar with the Wheel of Life exercise already, my title may have given you a strong hint about where I am going in this article. By the time we are through, I will describe the traditional Wheel of Life tool, so you are able to use it on your own. I will also suggest an alternative approach to the exercise that I encourage you to consider.
Introducing The Wheel of Life
As I mentioned, the Wheel of Life exercise is an important tool in the personal development field. It is one that I have used successfully in my own life and in my work as a natural health counselor and teacher. There are a number of variations on the basic Wheel of Life tool, and you can find free information on these variations via a web search.
While we will discuss how the Wheel of Life tool works, I want to underscore upfront that I believe the Wheel of Life exercise, as it is typically presented and used, can be improved upon with great additional benefit. The improvement I have in mind involves using the Wheel of Life tool specifically within the context of Natural Living as mentioned above. The essence of this change is to let the categories of our life wheel become grounded in and informed by new awareness of our potential to restore our natural health and well-being, and the transformational life changes that can come from this regrounding in our health.
While there are alternative versions of the Wheel of Life tool, it is usually structured as a three or four-part exercise that begins with the following eight categories, arranged on paper or a web page as spokes of a wheel (or as a pie chart with eight equal-sized sections):
- Friends & family
- Romance & intimacy
- Personal growth
- Fun & recreation
An important early point is that the order of the eight categories or spokes is not intended to imply relative significance, but the overall set of categories is quite important. Many psychologists view these eight categories as essential dimensions of a balanced and fulfilling life today. For this reason, these specific categories are almost always included in the Wheel of Life exercise. If you would like, take a few minutes to review the list and consider what is included in each category.
At a personal level, you might feel comfortable with the list of categories as is and be willing to move ahead with the exercise. I should point out that some people take issue with the importance of one or more of the eight categories. Or they may view the eight categories as lacking in some way and feel that that one or more additional categories are needed. As an example, a category called “citizenship” is a potential addition people have pointed out to me. Reconsidering the categories of the Wheel of Life tool leads to a more general discussion of the orientation and assumptions of its creators, an important topic that I will come back to.
For now, if you feel strongly that alternative categories or spokes should be substituted or added, my advice would be to add new spokes instead of eliminating these basic categories, since they have been proven to be important in practice and are based on cross-cultural research regarding successful achievement of life balance. In truth, for the Wheel of Life exercise to be effective, the wheel categories need only reasonably and concisely describe the essential attributes or dimensions you feel are critical to achieving a full and balanced life.
I should add that the Wheel of Life categories also do not imply we should devote equal or a specific amount of time and effort in each area. The categories of the wheel are intended to help us examine important aspects of human life in general and thereby promote balance in our life in particular. The categories of the wheel help us consider if we are fulfilled or pursuing fulfillment across the totality of our lives. But how much time and attention we devote across our life wheel is our decision.
Whatever wheel categories you choose, one thing that does not change is how the Wheel of Life tool is used. We use the wheel to measure our own life, our own balance and fulfillment, based on our expectations and perceptions in each of the wheel’s categories. In other words, the focus of the Wheel of Life exercise is always personal, our responses individualized and particular to our own circumstances. With the Wheel of Life, there is only one “right answer” to the categories: our most honest answer. In this way, we arrive at a life wheel that is truly ours, one based on how we see our life today along the spokes of our wheel.
Ultimately, we are the measure of our own life and of course know our life, our aspirations, and our true feelings of fulfillment in a way that no one else can. We thus can and must take responsibility for our wheel and our lives if we are to learn to guide ourselves in new and more fulfilling ways.
Using The Wheel of Life
Making use of the Wheel of Life tool is fairly straightforward but does require that we first ensure a setting and outlook that is conducive to success. So, you will first need to find or create a calm personal time when you can go through the exercise without distractions or interruptions. In this time, you will simply use pen and paper to list out the eight (or more) categories or spokes of your wheel. Then, with the issues and demands of the day on hold for a while, you will evaluate your present life situation by scoring yourself on how well you feel you are doing in each category of the wheel.
As mentioned before, this scoring must always be a candid personal assessment of our life, one based on our own inner sense of fulfillment in each spoke of the wheel. It is essential that you are completely honest with yourself in your scoring, or you risk making the exercise less effective than it can be. With this in mind, in the quiet time you have created for the exercise, carefully and thoughtfully give yourself a 1 to 5 score for each category of the wheel.- where 1 means you feel low levels of fulfillment in the area today, 3 means you are fairly fulfilled, and 5 means you feel highly fulfilled in a category.
In practice, our initial scoring often happens quite quickly, and then we begin to reflect on and consider our initial scores. Often, we find we need to go around the wheel a few times, in our initial sitting and then again later, until we achieve 1 to 5 scorings we are fully comfortable and emotionally satisfied with. This need for reflection and iteration, and our focus on our emotions and emotional satisfaction in the scoring process, is very important. We may think many things, but what we feel is what we feel, especially once we have uncovered and given new form to our emotions through this exercise (including allowing our assessments to incubate and become tested in time).
As we consider and reconsider our scoring, we should make full and even courageous use of our own inner feelings in this process, paying special attention to those emotional judgments that stay with us over time. Similarly, we must resist the temptation to use external standards to assess the categories of our lives, while recognizing that our inner feelings and external environment are interconnected. Always, it is the steady voice in our heart, and not the often shifting voices in our head, that best judge our fulfillment along the spokes of our life wheel.
Though we live in a time that values statistics and benchmarks, the use of our true feelings is the only reliable way we can ground our wheel in reality, in our authentic personal reality, and allow the wheel to help us make more fulfilling choices over time. In examining our life wheel and scoring our categories, we must speak to ourselves with our own voice and from our emotional and spiritual center. If we distort our scoring with external standards, or otherwise mask or turn away from our true feelings, then our life wheel is not really ours and it cannot help us pursue the life we really want.
To help visualize and reflect more deeply on your Wheel of Life scoring, it is important that you take the time to draw out your wheel. To do this, lightly draw spokes radiating out from a central point, one spoke for each category of your wheel and with the spokes evenly spaced around the central point. Next, label each spoke with the category name. Then shade in each spoke of your wheel based on your score (1=a little shading of the spoke near the center point, 3=a half shaded spoke, 5=a fully shaded spoke). When you are done, you will most likely have a wheel that looks like it has spokes of different lengths.
Sketching the Wheel of Life tool and shading in our initial scores for each category is a way of visualizing and evaluating the wheel of our life more deeply. Our sketch works to activate our self and emotions more broadly, and often allows us to reconsider our scores from a different vantage point. Sketching lets us see concretely the shape of our wheel, the shape we have initially drawn to describe our life today. It also allows us to consider what spokes most urgently need to lengthen to allow us to have a more fulfilling life in each area of our wheel, and thereby a more balanced life too.
In sketching our life wheel, some of us may initially find that we have a wheel that is very regular, very smooth and balanced, with short, medium, or long spokes of all about the same length. More likely, our initial wheel may be more irregular, with spokes that are longer in some areas and shorter in others. Often, once we see our shaded in spokes, we may have new perspectives on the category scores and may make changes to our scoring to reflect this. It is important to make these changes and adjustments as they occur to us, and to change them again if we must, as long as we remain focused on how we really feel and are honest with ourselves.
If we are embarrassed or troubled by our initial life wheel, that is fine since it is only a starting point. After all, only we need see our life wheel and know the truth of how we feel. On the other hand, think of the great gift it is to be able to be honest with ourselves and to be clear on the areas of our lives we most need to work at. In the end, it is a better and more powerful choice to have strong and honest feelings, rather than cheat with our wheel and repress how we truly feel for the sake of appearances, even to ourselves. In repressing our truest feelings, we of course also repress our potential for insight, action, and positive change. We limit our power to create new direction in our lives when we lie to ourselves.
Dynamics Of The Wheel
From this description of the Wheel of Life exercise, you may already see some of the dynamics of the Wheel of Life tool. One is that different people can give different scores to their categories despite being in similar circumstances. Or that the reverse can be true – people can give similar scores to one or more of their spokes despite very different life circumstances . As a common example, one person might have just a few friends but feel quite fulfilled in this area, while another person might feel unfulfilled with the same number and quality of friendships. Each person’s life wheel should be as individualized as a fingerprint, reflecting the uniqueness of our individual feelings and aspirations at the time we complete the exercise. In the end, each spoke of our life wheel emanates from and provides insights into our own self and the emotions that underlie us, whatever our life circumstances may be.
Another dynamic of the Wheel of Life is the potential and even the likelihood that our personal wheel will change in shape over time, with the potential for different length spokes each time we do the exercise. This changing of our wheel over time is almost inevitable – as we grow and mature, have new experiences and priorities, face change, and develop new expectations for what fulfillment feels like in different areas of our lives. We might feel fulfilled with our romantic dimension at one point in our life, for example, but later feel unfulfilled with a similar level of romance and intimacy. Fulfillment is always a function of where and who we are – and where and who we want to be – now, in our lives. The Wheel of Life thus always reflects a particular stage of our life, maturation, and personal development. It is always a representation of the distinct emotions and sense of who we are at any time and place, and in any phase in our life.
A third dynamic of the Wheel of Life exercise is that we may find that our categories or spokes are quite interconnected. Movement in one area of our wheel and life very often leads to movements and impacts in other areas, an important life lesson for us all. A change in our surroundings, for example, may change the amount of money in our lives, or the amount of money we feel we need to be fulfilled, or the scope of friendship and family around us. For this reason, it is worthwhile to come back to and reconsider our life wheel periodically, while always pursuing opportunities to lengthen multiple spokes of our wheel in a single sustained effort.
A final dynamic I’ll mention is the need to look at the relative length of our spokes in context. As mentioned before, by its own nature, the Wheel of Life exercise implies that balance, and balance across specific areas of our lives, is important to personal fulfillment, to achieving the good life. In this sense, uneven spokes imply a bumpy ride and are seen as less than ideal, while more even spokes suggest a smoother ride and thereby a more desirable life. But the length of our spokes matters too.
While research suggests that life balance is associated with achieving a greater overall sense of personal fulfillment, objections can be raised about the idea of seeking balance at all costs, of avoiding bumpiness altogether and not “going for length” when we know we should. Often, during the course of our lives, we may consciously choose to forgo fulfillment in one or more areas of our life to pursue longer-term goals and live a more engaging life overall. We accept some bumps, in other words, as the price of our being on a more inspiring road or a path leading to a cherished future destination.
Sometimes, we may even accept added bumpiness during extended portions of our lives for these same reasons. If this bumpiness reflects conscious and enlarging personal choices, this may well be a worthy burden for us to carry. But often, we may find on reflection that there is simply unnecessary bumpiness in our lives, that there are areas we should attend to and where just a bit of extra tending will allow us to let us smooth out our ride, as we pursue our longer-term goals.
After all, if one dimension of our life wheel is less important to us than others, it should be easier to achieve fulfillment in it. Often, the truth is that we may be neglecting key aspects of our life in an imbalanced personal strategy. If this is our situation, we owe it to ourselves and those in our life to attend to the totality of our life, smoothing unnecessary bumpiness and hardship. With a more balanced life, we may well find we are able to move more quickly toward our desired destinations, or even that we can see these destinations more clearly.
The Wheel In Practice
My own experience is that few of us ever have a truly even and long set of spokes in our life wheel, or a perfectly smooth ride in our lives, for very long. A certain amount change – a portion of bumpiness, imbalance, and re-truing – is just part of being alive in the dynamic world we live in.
At the same time, I have found that most of us can smooth out our bumpiness and get our life wheels to spin both faster and more evenly, creating very different lives for ourselves over time, by attending to our need for balance and fulfillment in the areas highlighted by the Wheel of Life tool. We are generally able to see beyond our immediate circumstances and act with an eye to the longer-term, especially when we have opportunities for reflection and the force of fresh insights from exercises such as the Wheel of Life. We better understand and can reduce our short-term bumpiness, while laying a track toward new goals, simply by being clearer on where we are and most want to go in our lives.
Even if our life remains a “work in progress” throughout our lives, the Wheel of Life exercise is a powerful tool for making the scope of this life work easier to visualize and complete. I have personally seen the Wheel of Life tool help people come to terms with their lives in fundamentally new ways. Our visualized life wheel helps us see more plainly the strengths and imbalances in our lives, and it motivates us to map new personal strategies to improve our lives. Seeing our life wheel allows us to evaluate our short and long spokes and the bumpiness in our lives. It helps us assess which areas with short spokes are the price of pursuing a higher life over time, and which short spokes are simply unpleasant, unnecessary and ready for attention.
The Wheel of Life exercise ends as it begins, with pen and paper and quiet personal time. Our final step is to write out what we want our life to be like in each of the areas of our wheel – describing to ourselves what fulfillment (a score of 5) looks like for each spoke of our life. We then describe as accurately and honestly as we can where we are today, and list out what we must do to bridge the gaps between today and our fulfillment. This process of planning may involve an extended period of reflection, with much writing and re-writing over several sittings, to reach a satisfying stopping point. I should say resting point, since our fulfillment is a moving target and there will be a need to repeat our planning in time, especially as we achieve the goals we set for ourselves today and begin to see tomorrow differently.
To start with a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and to end with a vision and plan for change in our lives, in many or all of the key areas of our lives, is a genuinely inspiring experience, as you might imagine. Visualizing our life wheel can help us see our lives in new and more expansive ways, better connect with our underlying values and deepest feelings, and clarify and better pursue our most highest priorities.
The Wheel of Life exercise also can help us examine how our current patterns of behavior and belief move us, and do not move us, to the fuller life we want. In the end, the Wheel of Life is a simple, durable tool, one we can return to again and again, especially at important times in our lives when we need a good talk with ourselves and fresh direction for our future.
Health As Our Hub
I’d like to continue our exploration of the Wheel of Life tool with an alternative and slightly deeper perspective on it, looking at the exercise from the viewpoint of a natural health practitioner (defined here as a person committed to Natural Living – to exploring natural health in all areas of one’s life). This alternative view is not intended to diminish the importance of the Wheel of Life exercise as it is typically taught and used, but to suggest a way to make it even more powerful. In both cases, the goal of the exercise is the same: to promote awareness, appreciation of balance, and positive change in our lives.
Let me introduce this alternative view by pointing out that, so far in our discussion of the Wheel of Life tool, we have talked almost entirely about spokes. Each spoke or category in the wheel points to a key aspect of our lives and so this focus is quite natural. But spokes, when they come together to form a wheel in this world, are normally connected to a hub at the wheel’s center. Discussion of the hub at the center of our life wheel is often not part of the Wheel of Life exercise, no doubt due to a desire to focus on examining our personal spokes. But the topic is one where our curiosity might lead us and questions about our hub do arise in practice.
When asked about this unspoken hub, I assume many counselors using the Wheel of Life tool say they take the hub to be each of us individually. They might describe the wheel’s hub as representing the unity of our self and our preferences, creating an image of our individuality radiating out through the spokes of our wheel. This idea, that our individuality and personal preferences are at our center, may not seem especially controversial to you or even worth reconsidering. After all, “self-as-center” thinking is pervasive today and integral to the common sense of our time. But this perspective is also a decidedly modern point of view and in some respects, as I will explain, can be a simplistic and, ironically, a self-limiting outlook too.
Though approaching life with the idea that the self is our hub and center reflects the general viewpoint of our time, this outlook has not always been as widespread. It represents a particular bias of modern people and an opportunity too. Our modern approach so often takes our individuality as it is and assumes that fulfillment of our personal wishes and preferences is the correct, even inevitable, focus of individuals and society. Embedded in this self-as-center view, however, is the now increasing tendency we see in modern-day people toward modern-day superficiality and emotional turbidity, each reinforced by our industrial culture and mass media.
This trend of our modern times is especially pronounced when we live amidst affluence and submit to external symbols of affluence as the prime source of our identity and motivation, leading predictably to feelings of emptiness and even despair. In the Wheel of Life tool, counselors can see this contemporary pattern of superficiality and extrinsic orientation in the types of assumptions people bring to the exercise and counseling relationship more generally, in a frequent lack of consideration of our individual potential to be deeper or even other than ourselves (overly accepting of the self as given), and in the degree of awareness of what we each most need to be fulfilled in different life circumstances.
At the same time, our modern sensibility also abhors value judgments, unless we make them quietly and for ourselves alone. As a result, a general approach in counseling today is to focus entirely on process and technique, enabling active self-determination but stopping at proposals for alternative values and judgments (in the extreme interceding only as required by statute). This process-intensive approach to counseling, explicitly accepting and enabling our individualistic and insular view of the individual, does guard against errors in counselor judgment. But it at least equally limits the potential impact of the counseling relationship, by limiting candor and imbuing the relationship with its own and now often derided form of superficiality and distance (rationalized as “professionalism”).
Our modern views of both the self and the counseling of the self are distinct in our time, as I said, and in great contrast to earlier ideas about the nature of our individuality and the correct methods to advance its fulfillment. Our self-as-center, self-as-hub thinking is largely a reaction to the dogma and less questioning attitudes of our earlier religious and pre-scientific past, a reaction that began in earnest with the European Enlightenment and the beginning of scientific method. Before that time, with some exceptions, the self was generally viewed as a part of something larger, whether society, nature, fate, or the divine. In this older way of thinking, an extrapersonal essence was conceived as existing within or underlying the self. Our fulfillment, in turn, was linked to alignment with specific forces at work in the world, especially with idealized attitudes and patterns of conduct.
Because our modern outlook and view of the self is a reaction to these earlier perspectives, though revolutionary in many respects, it can also be seen as an incomplete worldview too. From certain perspectives, our modern and now post-modern sensibility can be shown to be an inadequate outlook, one requiring additional refinement and synthesis. By this, I mean a movement past reactivity to the past and toward a new, positive, and more rigorous view that fully reflects the totality of human knowledge today. Our modern worldview awaits development to be made more complete and even truly contemporary, a process that no doubt is underway already. Strict self-as-hub thinking, in particular, can be shown to form a markedly myopic and limiting outlook, however widespread it may be today, with important and observable consequences for us all.
To better appreciate this problem, consider the idea that we are each at the very center of our lives, consciously responding to the environment and generally controlling our life path. Though a common view of the self today, this is an incomplete idea that cannot be substantiated by science. It implies a level of personal autonomy and individual independence that does not exist in fact, as many studies of human cognition and behavior have shown. Self-as-hub thinking overlooks the role of the larger world – enormous, extrapersonal, and generally subconscious systems of nature and nurture – that are actively at work on and within us at all times. It thus reflects an immature worldview and begs for change and progression.
My suggestion before that citizenship might be an additional spoke in our life wheel was an allusion to our modern superficiality and the often narrow focus we find in counseling. It was intended to hint at the idea that there is more at work within us than simply our the discernable self and its preferences as they are presented. In truth, we are each inseparable from the human species and our human nature, and I will suggest this is equally so regarding the paths available to us toward personal fulfillment. In this alternative view, our conscious selves are better seen as resting atop a great mass, one that is not conscious and not the self, instead of seeing our individuality as independent, autonomous, and monolithic.
In fairness to professional counselors, it is true that this simplification of the self makes the Wheel of Life and other personal development techniques easier to initially teach and use, but I will suggest it also robs these exercises in equal measure – of their full potential to open people to new perspectives and higher life possibilities. And so it is too with our modern sensibility more generally, and the life options it both creates for us and limits us to. In both cases, simplification allows us to move forward more quickly and pragmatically, but we gloss over and miss much of the richness around us and within us in this modern movement. Such is the true nature of our modern sensibility and worldview. We focus on shooting, rather than aiming, as the saying goes.
Contrast this thinking with the idea that, when we are naturally alive and not distorted by unusual conditioning or life experiences (as examples, the experience of extreme hardship or an upbringing without communal love and caring), natural and universal impulses emanate from within us. These impulses are deeper than us in our individuality and serve to guide us in our lives. Traditional descriptions of these internal impulses, in the West at least, often centered on the words conscience, spirit, and heart, but also extended to include words such as virtue and strength. Twentieth century psychologists initially described these impulses variously as instincts and drives, then later as more personalized wants and goals, and finally grasped their progressive quality: seeing them as ranging and expressing themselves from crude imperatives to promote our survival to higher aspirations aimed at growth and more compelling life.
As an alternative to these earlier descriptions of our natural human impulses and perhaps as a thought experiment for you, I would like to propose the idea that these natural impulses can be accurately and rigorously recast as impulses toward our health. I mean by this that our deeper, extrapersonal impulses serve ultimately to promote the optimization of the individual, the family and community, and the species and greater environment, all of which can be seen as fundamental dimensions of human health.
These natural impulses are not omniscient of course and can be influenced and even transfigured by experience, culture, and reason. For our discussion, however, there are only two important points: 1) these natural impulses are fundamentally toward healthy life, whether ensuring survival amidst hardship or the creation of meaning amidst abundance, and 2) such impulses are deeper and more central to us than our conscious and preferring self, which can be seen primarily as an interpreter and not the originator of these impulses.
If you reflect on the ancient evolutionary processes that created human beings and the natural world today, you will perhaps begin to see our potential to move beyond simple, modernist ideas of the independent self and toward creating a place for deeper, universal forces at work within us – in a way that is both like and yet unlike the approach of pre-modern people. You are free to call our inner dynamics by any name you want, but their purpose and end seems clear and demonstrable: these natural impulses motivate us to survive and proliferate, and then to foster our social groups, and finally to enrich human life and the world broadly. For these reasons, I call them our natural impulses to heath.
For me, our health is not simply one of many possible spokes in our life wheel, but the central force of human life within us that unites and motivates our individuality. This suggests a movement of our health to our center, both as a returning and as a step into the future. Such a move evokes earlier ideas of extrapersonal and divine forces within us, which we can now take as metaphor for the forces of nature and life within us. This change is a creative and much needed synthesis of how we approach the totality of our lives in our time.
Once we re-ground our individual self in the imperatives of biological life itself, our health naturally moves to become our hub, in place of ancient divinity and modernist ideas of the autonomous and isolated individual. Health-as-hub thinking offers a new view of our self and the world, one that is contemporary with our science and fully rigorous, and catalyzing new and transformative human life.
Remaking The Wheel Of Life
To conclude our discussion, I would like you to experience, in personal terms, what it means to have the “health” spoke in our Wheel of Life exercise figuratively bent into a hub and placed at our center. Let me say first that the move is not simply health enhancing, but personally enlarging and life changing as well. Re-centering ourselves in our natural impulses to health, and exploring these impulses in our lives over time, works to alter our basic orientation as people. This process, which I call Natural Living, causes a change in our values and priorities – how and why we live each day.
If you are planning to begin or are in the midst of the Wheel of Life exercise, this turning of our health spoke into a hub will leave you with seven spokes (but perhaps more as we have discussed), each an important measure or dimension of balanced human life in our times. With the change, however, your life wheel will be altered in a much more important and fundamental way. Instead of the hub of your wheel left unnamed, you will be joined by a new, old, and perhaps unfamiliar presence at your center.
No longer will you simply be alone with your preferences amidst the many opportunities and entrapments of modern life. Instead, you will have a guide with you – whose voice may prove unsteady at first and untimely at times, but who will ultimately offer steady and even timeless perspective on your life and the world. The voice I speak of is of course our universal imperative of healthy human life, changing and not changing with our circumstances. In its varying ways, the voice of our health always calls first for our survival and then for our flourishing.
The voice of our health, when attended to over time and informed by the science of our well-being, transforms our individual perspective and choices. We find ourselves challenged to have much longer and larger views of our lives, and to contend with the possibility of abundant health in all aspects of our life. Our health can be experienced as a force larger than us and yet containing the potential to reground us in our own unique individuality. The imperative of health leads to new and even forceful impetus to look into and beyond our modernity, to what new things might be possible in and with our lives each day.
In one life, my own, the change from replacing my self with my health as the center of my life was as profound in practice as I have described here as possible. I had spent many years with good physical health and fitness, but with other aspects of my life less than ideal. Perhaps like you, I felt limited despite the unprecedented freedoms of our time, unfocused and unfulfilled, and unable to create the larger life I wanted. Related to this, I was oddly imbalanced, as the Wheel of Life exercise immediately revealed to me, even with my hub undefined the first time through. My life wheel had very irregular spokes.
The Wheel of Life tool opened up for me a means to more consciously assess and organize my life around my values, as I understood them then, and especially to set better and more balanced goals for how I spent my time. The Wheel of Life exercise revealed what were clear gaps between my goals and behavior, and brought new and welcome change in a short period of time. In my case, I realized I needed to spend more time with and pay greater attention to my family, friends, and work colleagues. Over several months, I was able to pull the spokes of my life together into better balance, confronting unexamined and less than ideal ways of thinking and acting in my life. I continue to benefit from these changes, many years later.
Still, after this initial period of adjustment and re-alignment of my attitudes and behaviors, I found that my underlying values and priorities, as they became more transparent to me, were still not fully expressed in my life. I had objectives and goals for each of the Wheel of Life categories, but they were not as sharply focused, as clear and powerful, as I began to think possible. My life was more balanced and improved, and I was more self-conscious than before, but I felt I could further enrich and enlarge my life (which of course is always true while we are alive). About this time, I began experiments in natural nutrition and this led me to the idea that the imperative of our health underlay our values and could create new energy and focus in all of the spokes of my wheel.
The idea to move my health, metaphorically and practically, from being a spoke in the wheel of my life to becoming the organizing hub of my life led to new and far-reaching changes for me. Beginning the Wheel of Life exercise again with a commitment to be healthy and well, and to foster health and wellness, in all aspects of my life was a quiet revolution, one that still reverberates in my life today and has now carried me into your life. Instead of setting personally agreeable but limited goals for each category of my wheel, I was pushed to create more challenging and inspiring goals, to be far truer to my personal potential, and to live with the force of my health in all aspects of my life.
Far from dictating choices, having health as my hub almost immediately made my life much richer and more full of possibilities, with a far greater range of opportunities before me. But it also changed the way I looked at the world and my priorities in it. Many side paths in my life were revealed so clearly as side paths and not principal routes to the future I wanted. The lens of our health pierced a veil for me and let me see the world in new ways. I was less a modern and less a spectator in the world, more a participant and part of forces larger than me. The world, in turn, was remade with urgent problems and opportunities I had not seen before and which called on me to act.
Having health as my hub provided sustaining new focus. My remaining spokes were united in a weightier and more satisfying way. My choices began to enrich my health, just as my health had begun to enrich my choices. Examples of this included the way I though about my surroundings (from seeking a pleasant environment to one that was actively health-promoting), my career (from one that provided income to one that served others and a personal mission), my family relationships and friendships (from spending time with others to fostering deeper connection and positive growth in those around me), romance (from agreeable partners to authentic love and intimacy), and even recreation (from pleasant diversions for my free time to new outlets that brought me closer to others sharing my interest in health).
In each of these categories of my life, the spokes of my life wheel were extended and more firmly linked to a deeper value and more compelling commitments within me. My pleasant but often typical life yielded to a good and more personal one, a life of more heartfelt, enriching, and self-respecting priorities. I became more balanced as a person, even as my wheel increased in size and speed, thanks to the new weight of my health turning at my center.
I hope ending on a personal story is useful and even inspiring to you, and that it helps to make the Wheel of Life exercise more tangible. But now you have delayed long enough. It is time for you to complete the Wheel of Life exercise yourself. Again or for the first time, and either in the traditional manner or as I have suggested, with health at your center and informing your self-assessment and goals in each of the spokes of your wheel.
Like me, you too may find not only a more balanced journey with your health at your center, but also a stronger, truer, and more freely turning life wheel over time, one ready to reach into the great heights and depths that lie before and within us at all times.
Mark Lundegren is the founder of HumanaNatura.
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