The pi of life

February 11th, 2008

1. Take a pencil and draw a large circle on a blank sheet of paper. I usually turn one of my salad plates upside down and trace the outer rim to get a circle true and wide.

2. Eyeball the center of the circle and make a dot there. Don’t trouble yourself to get the exact center.

3. Use a ruler or straightedge to divide the circle into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Don’t worry about the equidistance of the lines.

4. Now you have a pie with eight roughly equivalent wedges. Don’t quibble about how equal they are.

5. Quick, without thinking, label the top edge of each wedge with a word for one aspect of your life. For instance, I might write, “Work,” “Family,” “Finances,” “Health,” “Practice,” “Travel,” “Marriage,” “Fitness,” etc. Don’t study or ponder what your eight aspects are. Just jot them in as they come to you. They change over time and with circumstances.

6. Without stopping, look at each of the labeled parts and write a word or two that describes exactly what you would like to see occur in each of those areas in your life. Write these words at the bottom on each wedge, near the center of the pie, as you rotate it around. Leave most of the wedge empty and white. Try to avoid time spent in formulating the words you write. Just let them materialize without self-editing.

7. Remind yourself to use an immediate and short-term perspective. Be daring, but be specific. That means, for instance, instead of writing in the “Work” section “Successful Internet Gazillionaire,” write something like “Breakthrough Idea.” Later on, after you have an idea, develop a business plan, attract investors and design and program your enterprise, you can collect your gazillions.

8. Just as fast, look at each section and quickly sketch a visual to represent the outcome that you’ve described. It doesn’t matter how much accuracy or detail you use in your drawing. Do not judge or even think about this. The point is to take a dreamy concept and convert it into raw physical form using your intuitive eye.

9. This is not simply a list of things to do, which is itself a miraculous potion. This creation is your Wheel of Life. Label it with your name in one corner of the paper, like I do, “Karen’s Wheel of Life” and date it. We call it a wheel because wheels turn.

10. Place this somewhere it will be in sight everyday. I put mine on the top of my printer, which sits on the top of my desk at eye level. The point is to have visual access to this diagram automatically, without dwelling on it, and let the aspirations magically penetrate your thought and behavior patterns.

I began this practice, drawing a pie and turning it into my wheel of life, about 12 or 15 years ago. I don’t know where the instructions came from. It was about the time I was hungry and thirsty for everything, so I taught myself palmistry, astrology, and tarot cards. Get the picture? It was all about getting the picture.

I offer it now because of the conversations I keep running into about long-distance life planning and all such things about how to really do what we otherwise only talk or think about doing. Sometimes I re-draw the wheel every two or three months. There have been times, for instance, like in the early part of my daughter’s life, when I fell completely off track, and didn’t draw a wheel for years. Looking back, I can see that those years were indeed when I fell off track, wondering all the while where my life went!

I can’t emphasize enough that this exercise is to articulate immediate intention and action, rather than extract a list of “100 things” that can veer off into the inexhaustible and unimaginable future. Let the things you put into the pie be the things you wouldn’t think would happen tomorrow, but in some subtle and unpredictable way, could happen tomorrow. The way this practice works is that it brings your own readiness and aptitude for growth into manifest form, out of the smoke and dust of mere wishful musings.

All this week, I’m going to tell you more about why I believe this works, and what transcendental company you keep when you call forth a picture of your own pi of life*.

*Humbly inspired by the genius of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi”, which will convince you that we are indeed the authors of a mysterious truth that is indistinguishable from fiction.


  1. I am going to do this!

    Fantastic idea – great post.


    Comment by MommyKnows — February 11, 2008 @ 6:22 am

  2. what an interesting idea. so many of us bemoan our days but to actually write down what we would really want…

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — February 11, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  3. Interesting!

    I have a new year ritual where I write down those things on little slips of paper and they go into my year jar. Positive energy, good vibes, possibilities. I do it every year. I like the though of them being all together, visible, more in my face, and in a wheel – spinning in endless possibilities, circling and never ending! 🙂 Always inspired.

    Comment by denise — February 11, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Odd that this book should come up in a post of yours today … I had just ordered it about a week ago on paperbackswap. But, it never got sent. I’ll have to check it out at hte library. I’ve heard great things about it.

    I’ll put this exercise on my to-do list.

    Comment by Shawn — February 11, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  5. I loved this.
    Something about seeing things as circular, spinning, radiating out from the center.
    Off to make my own.

    Comment by bella — February 11, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  6. The Wheel of Life is often the very first exercise I do with new clients, and one we return to, creating new variations along the way. I love this approach to it – it’s more intuitive and creative than some of the models I’ve inherited.

    Wonderful post. Thank you, Karen.

    xo Jena

    Comment by Jena Strong — February 11, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

  7. I loved that book. Yann is a great speaker too.
    xo m

    Comment by Mika — February 12, 2008 @ 2:08 am

  8. This is a great idea. I’ve actually made collages before of things I want out of life. They are so pretty, and I kept them by my desk for a long time. Then a destructive little boy came along, and I had to put them away. Anyway, I should dig them out, or better yet, draw the pi!

    Comment by Shelli — February 12, 2008 @ 2:55 am

  9. Good idea. The only short or long term planning/idea list/model I do these days is for grocery shopping…

    Comment by Lana Willocks — February 12, 2008 @ 6:21 am

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