“My whole life has fallen apart!”

If you spend any time at all working with or raising teens, you are familiar with variations of those moments when the rails come off and the young person before you adamantly believes all is lost and/or has fallen apart. In all honesty, there are seasons of life even as an adult when it can seem like challenges are multiplying and relief isn’t in sight. Gaining perspective of what is and isn’t true in these situations can bring a much needed stress release that will set you or the students in your life up to re-engage with confidence in areas that are proving to be challenging.

One of my favorite “perspective tools” in moments or seasons like this is the Wheel of Life. Very often when taking a student through the exercise, we discover there are only one or two main areas that are proving to be difficult, while most categories of life are going fairly well. When a student has opportunity to gain this visual realization, they can begin to relax into the newfound truth that all of life hasn’t fallen apart. Once a student begins to settle in, a great window of opportunity opens up for them to begin thinking about how to take a step forward in areas of life where they are experiencing low levels of satisfaction and high levels of stress.

The Wheel of Life is a visual representation of what is going well and of what areas of life need attention.

blog wheelwheel example



Step one: Rank your current level of satisfaction in each wedge category on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being completely satisfied.

Step two: Draw your new perimeter (see example).

Step three: Consider what you just learned about yourself and your life. What jumps out at you? Is there a particular wedge that caught you by surprise? What about it was surprising?

Step 4: Acknowledge something you are proud of in your life that you weren’t thinking about or hadn’t noticed until now. (It’s immensely helpful if students can pick out a positive before they begin work on something that is stressful and feels negative.)

Step 5: Choose one wedge and create an action that will move a 6 to a 7 or a 7 to an 8 etc. When designing your action, remember to be specific, state it in the positive, make it measurable, and choose something you can accomplish in the next week or so.

Small wins build positive self-esteem and momentum,

reduce stress, and create motivation for future actions. Actions can be as simple as committing to do homework (before electronics) for two hours a night each night for the next week, or choosing to go to bed by a certain time each night for the next week. It’s key in coaching to help students stack up these small wins, so they have a solid foundation to move onto greater wins. When you or the students in your life follow through on actions, don’t forget to celebrate. You just built a structure for yourself and accomplished what you set out to do. Way to go! 🙂


Thanks for checking out my blog! The Wheel of Life is an Academic Life Coaching concept. I am an ICF certified Academic Life Coach and train youth advocates in the Academic Life Coaching 1.0 coach training program. I’m also an adoptive mom, youth advocate and a licensed therapeutic foster parent. For more information about this program for the student in your life or on how to train as a coach, please contact me here.