While hardly a problem unique to equestrians, we tend to focus on life balance more than “other” people. Perhaps it is because horses often reach the status of obsession and they consume copious amounts of time and money, prompting others to advise us that our life is out of balance.
A balanced life does not mean that each area of your life is receiving the same amount of attention, it means that each area is receiving the ideal amount of attention based on what makes you happy and fulfilled. “Other” people usually think a balanced life means less time and money on horses. One of the common internal conflicts among horsemen is that we would like to spend even more time with our horses while other aspects of our life demand attention.
The Life Wheel is a great coaching tool for helping you consider each area of your life in turn and identifying which areas need more attention and which may be receiving too much, perhaps sapping energy and enthusiasm that could be better directed elsewhere. By mapping your chosen dimensions on a circle as spokes on the wheel you have a visual representation of the life you are currently living and you can begin to take steps toward the life you desire.
A Life Wheel is essentially a circle divided into segments (usually 6-8) that represent different life areas, roles or dimensions. The segments are not fixed – it’s up to you to define the areas that are important. Each segment comes with a rating scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), representing your satisfaction in the present moment and your ideal. After you rate each segment, you mark out your scores, then connect the dots. In the end, you get a web-like diagram that gives you an instant idea of where you are and where you would like to be.
The Wheel is useful because of the visual representation, giving you a view of your life from 10,000 feet. After all, it’s hard to know how you are doing in your overall life when you’re so focused on your day-to-day activities. You may subconsciously know when you are putting an area “on hold”, but this neglect may not be obvious while you’re in the midst of it.
Once the initial wheel is complete, it is very easy to take one slice of the pie and do a breakout wheel. For example, assuming Equestrian is one of your chosen dimensions, you can create a breakout wheel that consists of training, showing, relaxing trail rides, etc. Or you can break training down into dressage, cross country schooling, fitness sets, show jumping. I find it most effective to do the “life” wheel first, followed by a “breakout” wheel that is specifically focused on equestrian, which may then be broken down into rider skills and horse’s training.
Step 1: Prepare
Allocate some time for yourself. Find a relaxing place and eliminate potential interruptions as much as possible. Once you turn on the “flow” it is best to let it run its course. Download the Equestrian Life Wheel PDF.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Start by brainstorming the 6 to 8 dimensions of your life that are important for you. Give some thought to the roles you play in life, for example: husband/wife, father/mother, manager, colleague, team member, sports player, community leader, equestrian or friend. Examine areas of life that are important to you and things that you value, for example: artistic expression, positive attitude, career, education, family, friends, financial freedom, physical challenge, pleasure, adventure or public service.
You may have trouble selecting only 8. You may find that some roles and values are subsets of others. In that case, a breakout wheel is a great exercise and one that I will discuss briefly below. In the case of more than 8 distinct roles and values, prioritize and select the most important.
Step 3: Plot
The Life Wheel exercise assumes that you will be happy and fulfilled if you can find the right balance of attention for each of the selected dimensions. So the next step is to assess the amount of attention you’re currently devoting to each area. Consider each dimension in turn, and on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), mark each score on the appropriate spoke of you Life Wheel. Join up the marks around the circle. Does you life wheel look and feel balanced?
Now consider your ideal level attention in each area of your life. A balanced life does not mean getting 10 in each area: some areas need more attention and focus than others at any time. A balanced life also does not mean what your partner, your boss or your children consider balanced. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF! Inevitably you will need to make choices and compromises, as your time and energy are not in unlimited supply! So the question is, what would the ideal level of attention be for you in each life area? Plot the “ideal” scores around your life wheel too.
Step 4: Plan
Once you have identified the areas that need attention, it’s time to plan the actions needed to work on regaining balance. Starting with the neglected areas, what things do you need to start doing to regain balance? In the areas that currently sap your energy and time, what can you STOP doing or reprioritize or delegate to someone else? Part II will include some steps to create an action plan and Part III will focus on how to commit to your plan.
Finally, put your completed wheel in a safe place where you can check in on it from time to time or use it for comparison to a new wheel compiled at a later date, after you have implemented some changes in your life or training program.
I hope this exercise has given you some valuable insight. Keep asking questions and experimenting with little changes that will move you toward your dream.