In 2014, I was 31 at the time, I met with my first coach. She taught me about ‘the wheel of life’. It was so unlike anything I ever learned in school, it fascinated me instantly. So recently I looked it up and it’s a real thing.
“A researcher observed a young butterfly’s exertion and struggle to get out of its cocoon. He thought he would help and used a scalpel to make a small slit in the cocoon, thus easing the butterfly’s task. Soon, however, he discovered the butterfly could not fly; its wings had not been strengthened through the effort of escape. The butterfly died because it was not strong enough to become airborne.
In a similar manner the struggle and suffering we encounter in life can be strengthening. If it is avoided then our lives may lack the strength and resolve needed to seek and engage transformation. Psychological and spiritual growth is always difficult. It is like the birth process in which something new comes into existence. A new level of maturity is brought into being. Birth involves struggle and with struggle comes not only suffering but strength.
Let’s look at one frequently occurring example of the “Wheel of Life.” It is a wheel surrounded by four different images of one person. At the top of the wheel is a well-dressed person, smiling and content. This person is in the position of happiness and success. As the wheel turns clockwise on its axis, the next image is of the same person appearing distressed as he falls head long into the abyss of change and loss. Fortune has turned, and the wheel continues to move. At the bottom of the wheel the person is naked and is in suffering as he lives through the experience of loss. This is the position of despair and loss of hope. Once again the wheel turns and the person rises in hopeful expectation. The person is again clothed and has a look of anticipation as he moves towards the top of the wheel.
These four images represent the phases of life which are in continual movement. These phases can be distinguished from the stages of life. Life stages are broad divisions such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adult, midlife, and old age. The four phases of the wheel occur within these stages in an on going cyclical manner. As individuals living in the world, we are always at one of the life four positions: Happy, Loss (Descending), Suffering, or Hope (Ascending). Because the wheel is continually turning, we can assess our present position and look ahead to where we will be next. If we are presently happy, it will not last. If we are falling, it may get worse. When we are suffering, we may get through it to rise again in hope. Happiness will be regained, but the wheel also continues to turn. The cycle is repeated, and such is life.”