The Wheel of Life: When is an 8 Better Than a 10?
While we all think a 10 out of 10 is the ideal score on the Wheel of Life, research shows we may be better off aiming for an 8.
The Wheel of Life is one of the most popular tools in a coach’s toolbox. That’s probably because it’s easy for clients to overlook important life areas when they’re focusing on just one at a time. Only when they can see a visual overview of their whole life to they realize that their 9 out of 10 in “career” is causing the 3 out of 10 in their relationships.
We generally assume, though, a 10 out of 10 is the optimal target for all of our of our life areas. And although we generally accept that this is not likely to happen, we strive for it nonetheless.
But is a 10 out of 10 really the best score? In his book “The Paradox of Choice”, psychologist Barry Schwartz describes two kinds of people: maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers are characterized by a strong desire to have the best of everything: the perfect car, the ideal husband, the best possible house, job, etc. They spend a huge amount of time researching every purchase, scrutinizing every decision, and agonizing over the tiniest of details. Satisficers, on the other hand, look for the “good enough” solution. If it meets their basic requirements, they quickly take it and move, no fuss.
It turns out that when you ask maximizers and satisficers about their overall levels of happiness, the satisfcicers are generally happier in life. In their quest to have a “10 out of 10” in all possible areas of their lives, they sacrifice their overall satisfaction, which suffers from the impossible task of perfection-seeking. People who are satisfied with an 8 out of 10 seem to be better able to accept life’s imperfections, and as such are happier overall when they have less.
In their meta-study of several longitudinal research reports, psychologist Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virgina, Ed Diener of the University of Illinois, and Richard Lucas of Michigan State found even more evidence for the benefits of the “good enough” approach to your Wheel of Life scores. For example, they found that although average income generally goes up with happiness the relationship wasn’t perfect. The highest incomes were found for people in the 80th percentile; people with the highest happiness percentiles (80 to 100) earned less, on average. Likewise, happier students generally had higher grades, missed fewer classes, and had higher conscientiousness scores than less-happy classmates, but the very happiest 20% of students dropped in these scores.
So the next time your client complains about “only” having an 8 out of 10 in a given area of their Wheel of Life, let them know that they may be better off, overall, just staying there.