Imagine that your life is like a wheel with six spokes. A wheel will keep moving if one of your spokes is broken or missing. But if multiple spokes are not working, your wheel will collapse.
To live an optimal life, you need to make sure all your spokes are tight. With a functional wheel, you’ll be able to move forward smoothly. In contrast, if your spokes aren’t tight, you might risk a bump in the wheel, which will make it hard to move.
I call this Six Spokes Theory. For most of us, this is the best way to look at life. Here’s what the spokes represent:
- Body: The condition of your body, including your diet, stamina, strength, and recovery.
- Mind: Your ability to focus, rest, and acquire knowledge.
- Love: Your relationship with family, friends, kids, and intimate partner.
- Work: How much inner satisfaction and financial rewards you receive from your career.
- Money: What you do with the money you have.
- Play: How well you’re able to entertain yourself.
Unlike other life theories, this is not about becoming successful. Six Spokes Theory is about living an optimal and balanced life. It’s not about becoming the best in the world, and it’s also not about sacrificing certain areas in life so you can be successful in your career.
How To Apply Six Spokes Theory To Daily Life
How can you use this theory to live better? One thing you might notice is that every spoke is equally important for a wheel.
We can’t say that our work is more important than our body. If we neglect taking care of our body, our work will suffer eventually. In life, everything is connected. If you neglect one area of your life, you will somehow get punished for it in the long-term.
That’s why I find the wheel analogy so useful. I grew up in The Netherlands, and the bicycle was always my primary mode of transportation. I’ve had a missing spoke several times. I could continue cycling, but it was risky.
If I didn’t hit a bump in the road, everything was fine. But once, I remember having one broken spoke, and a few others that weren’t tight. I tried to cycle up a sidewalk and as soon as my wheel hit the curb, it dented and nearly collapsed. I couldn’t use my bike anymore.
The same idea works for the Six Spokes Theory. Let’s say you temporarily neglect your “Body Spoke” and don’t work out. You’ll be fine for a while. But if you keep neglecting your body for a long time, life will serve you the bill in the form of injuries, illnesses, and feeling tired all the time.
Balance Your Energy, Not Your Time
The biggest challenge with living an optimal life is how much time you spend on all the areas of life. Conventional thinking says, “I need allocate my time to everything equally.” That type of thinking causes frustration and inner conflict because it’s impossible.
By its nature, work eats up the majority of our time. If you look at Six Spokes Theory from that perspective, you would say that some spokes are more important than others. But that’s not true.
Remember, all spokes are equally important. It’s foolish to say that work is more important than love. Everything matters. One way to think about balance is that you want to spend the same amount of energy on every area.
Imagine you have 6 blocks of energy. You need to spend that energy during the 18 hours you’re awake. But let’s say you need to work for 8 hours.
You’ll need to be careful with how you spend your energy during those 8 hours. You can’t go full throttle. Work slowly. It’s just like heart-rate running. Have you ever tried that? The idea is that you can go on for much longer if you train at 70% – 80% of your max heart rate.
Maybe you’ll be able to run for two hours at 70%, but only 25 minutes at 90%. It’s all about energy expenditure. If you go faster, you don’t go far. This is one of the biggest contradictions in life. That’s why we struggle with it so much.
Most of us consume energy that’s meant for another area in life. When you do that, it’s like riding a bike that’s missing a spoke. It might work, but it’s risky. So when you use more energy for work, you might have no energy to spend on strengthening your body.
Remember: We only get frustrated when we try to balance our time. It’s impossible. We can’t give the same amount of time to our body, mind, love, work, money, and play. But we can’t afford to ignore these areas either. That’s why we need focus on how much energy we spend on every area.
Examples In Every Day Life
The Six Spokes Theory is about smart energy consumption. This theory will not work if you expend energy on negativity and useless activities. One must be thoughtful all the time. Here are some examples.
When I spend time with people I love, I give them my full attention, support, and treat them with kindness. That has several consequences:
- I don’t focus on quantity since you can’t love everyone
- Being kind doesn’t mean you swallow your words, you need to be honest as well
- I can’t be preoccupied with work or other things in life
- I need to be in a good place myself, otherwise I can’t support others
Every day, I consciously decide to treat my money with respect. I don’t squander it. I don’t dream of having more of it. I see it as a tool. When I used to see someone driving a fancy car, I thought, “Wow, I want to make more money so I can buy a car like that.”
But then I realized everything comes at a price. And I’m not willing to sacrifice my other spokes so I can be “successful.” I’d rather have an optimal life.
I like having fun in different ways. I enjoy watching comedy. I like reading books. I recently picked up archery. I play video games. Some days I just do it for 30 minutes, but it’s not about the time, it’s about the effect this has on me.
I also don’t need anyone to entertain me. There are thousands of things I can do on my own that give me joy. But can I do it forever? No, I have five other spokes in my wheel.
Are All Your Spokes Tight?
Six Spokes Theory shows that we can’t neglect important areas of life if we want to live optimally. This requires making tough choices. While we can’t neglect any area of life, we also can’t do everything we want at the same time.
We have constraints on our energy. This has a big impact on our life and work. This theory might not help you to become the best in the world. But 99% of people don’t even have that desire. We have the desire to live a good life—a full life with six functioning spokes.