Economists typically adopt the view that well-being depends on external life circumstances, and that it can be influenced by simply altering these conditions. In contrast to this myopic view, positive psychology considers the humanity behind these circumstances and the corresponding level of subjective well-being one experiences.
From this perspective, subjective well-being is a cumulative state, where one’s satisfaction within various life domains (work, leisure, family, etc.) leads to a global evaluation of one’s satisfaction with life.
This, taken in conjunction with high positive affect and low negative affect, lead to an overall perception of how well one perceives oneself or in other words one’s evaluation of subjective well-being (Diener, 2000).
Assessing Satisfaction: Questionnaires for Evaluating Satisfaction with Life
Positive psychology practitioners have created various tools to assess one’s perceived satisfaction with life accurately in order to help people reach new levels of subjective well-being.
Examples of these assessments include:
- The Quality of Life Scale (Flanagan, 1982),
- The Perceived Quality of Life Scale (2008),
- The Assessment of Quality of Life (Hawthorne, Richardson, & Osborne, 1999) and the
- The McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (Cohen, Mount, Tomas, & Mount, 1996)
All of these questionnaires and scales offer a glimpse into the otherwise internal world of the client. The creators made this possible through the standardisation of which life domains are assessed. However, while this provides objectivity on an otherwise subjective concept, it could also be argued that it hinders the client from providing an authentic and truly personal representation of the life domains they perceive as important.
Introducing the Wheel of Life…
An alternative way to address satisfaction with different life domains is by using a graphical representation, the so-called “Wheel of Life” (Whitworth, Kimsey-House, & Sandahl, 1998; Dean, 2004).
In essence, this tool provides the practitioner with the same information as the questionnaires above with two important distinctions;
- It allows the client to identify their specific life domains and
- It provides a comprehensive visual overview of the client’s current satisfaction with life.
Once the client identifies their life domains, they are asked to rate them 0-10 depending on their level of satisfaction with that domain. After the assessment is complete, both client and practitioner can review the opportunities within each area to increase satisfaction.
Guidance For Use
The Wheel of Life is typically used in a discovery session as it allows the practitioner to gauge the client’s sense of life fulfilment before prioritising goals.
One of the key considerations in using this assessment is first recognising what ‘balance’ looks like for that client at that specific time. ‘Balance’ for them depends on their values and may not be reflected in the Wheel of Life. In fact, the results can often indicate how out of balance a client’s life is and can serve to inform the client of gaps between their perceived “balance” and reality.
This tool can also be used in a group. Members can be asked to complete the exercise before attending the first session and to repeat the exercise during the program. The “life domains” may be replaced with “group values” (e.g. collaboration, honesty, etc.). Repeating the exercise will allow group members to acknowledge their change over time. In this version of the tool, the wheel can be used to monitor the extent to which the group is behaving in line with group values.
The Wheel of Life is a snapshot taken at the moment and is thus subject to change. When used on a regular basis, the Wheel of Life is excellent at showing your clients how much progress they have made. In general, repetitive use of the same measure highlights useful patterns and can be a facilitator of behavioural change.
Our Celebratory Offer
The Wheel of Life is part of the latest update of the Positive Psychology Toolkit.
We would like to offer all of you in our community of dedicated practitioners The Wheel of Life assessment free of charge.
We wish you all the best in using this tool to help your clients reach new levels of life satisfaction and well-being.
Team Positive Psychology Program
Other tools in the latest toolkit update include:
- 200 Strengths Labels
- Analysing Strengths Use in Different Life Domains
- Identifying Factors that Hinder Well-being
- Identifying Personal Rules
Cohen, S. R., Hassan, S., Lapointe, B. J., & Mount, B. M. (1996). Quality of life in HIV disease as measured by the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire. Aids, 10(12), 1421–1427.
Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness, and a proposal for national index. American Psychologist, 55, 34-43.
Flanagan JC (1982). Measurement of quality of life: Current state of the art. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 63, 56-59.
Hawthorne, G., Richardson, J., & Osborne, R. (1999). The Assessment of Quality of Life (AQoL) instrument: A psychometric measure of health related quality of life. Quality of Life Research, 8(3), 209–224.
Seattle Quality of Life Group. (2008, June). Information Sheet on the Perceived Quality of Life Scale (PQoL). Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/yqol/instruments/PQOL.htm
Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, H., & Sandahl, P. (1998). Co-active coaching. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing