Spring 2024
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Beyond Balance: Go for Harmony Instead
Applying the Jabian Engagement Framework to your personal life.

Maintaining harmony and engagement in our personal lives is a constant struggle. The entire self-help industry is built on the discomfort we feel when our lives are in disharmony. A quick search for achieving balance on Amazon returns a list of over 2,000 books. But is balance the right word for what we seek in our lives? The idea of work-life balance has existed for decades, but by its nature is restricting and implies give-and-take between two concepts or activities often at odds with one another. In fact, engagement and fulfillment come from a collection of drivers. And while self-help books contain wisdom that can indeed improve our lives, in our experience a complete map of the drivers and influencers is missing.

In the Fall 2016 issue of the Jabian Journal, we began a 10-part series on the Jabian Engagement Framework, a helpful tool that leaders can use to identify the emotional drivers behind a culture or a change and the levers they can use to influence those drivers. The Jabian Engagement Framework is targeted at leaders who are charged with optimizing the engagement of their workforce, managing change, and making investments that will enhance the overall satisfaction and productivity of all the stakeholders in their business. When we’ve written and spoken about the Jabian Engagement Framework, we’ve always pointed out that it works with individuals, teams, organizations, and even entire societies. We’ve also recognized, and noted, that the corporate jargon describing the influencers in the model can interfere with applying it to our personal harmony and engagement – or to an individual we are coaching or mentoring. As such, we’ve tailored the Jabian Engagement Framework for use on a personal level.

Like the Engagement Framework, the Personal Engagement Framework is a useful tool or checklist for understanding the emotions behind harmony and the actions we can take to improve our lives. It is easy to apply and can lead to insights and ideas we might otherwise never have considered that might just make life a little, or a lot, better.

At the center of the new framework (see Framework below) is Harmony. People who are in harmony are engaged in their life and feel energized, productive, happy, and fulfilled. That’s what we’re all after, life’s ultimate goal. And while harmony is different for all of us, there are only six drivers that contribute to it. Those drivers can be found in the wedges around the center circle: Growth, Relationships, Autonomy, Security, Fairness, and Well-Being. Not surprisingly, for those familiar with our Jabian Engagement Framework, they are the same drivers in our corporate version of the framework. We have, however, renamed many of the levers (located around the outside of the framework) that influence the drivers to make better use of words more familiar in our personal lives. With that clarified, let’s dive in.

The Harmony Drivers

The six drivers of harmony: Growth, Relationships, Autonomy, Security, Fairness, and Well-Being, can be either positive or negative for any individual at any given time. Changes happen over the course of our lives and even minute-by-minute during the day. Those changes affect the harmony drivers, which influence, as one might discern, our sense of harmony/fulfillment/happiness. We describe the drivers that influence harmony next.


Accomplishing a goal, receiving a compliment, learning something new, achieving a personal best, winning a contest, outperforming our peers, and receiving a promotion are all examples of growth. Striving for that next achievement, pursuit, or chase is at the core of the growth driver. Personal setbacks, career stumbles, boredom, or stagnation can all negatively affect the growth driver.


Social relationships are a key source of engagement. Human beings are social creatures, and we need a connection to others. Similarly, deep relationships – where we care about others and others care about us – are an important element of engagement. Happiness research shows that we need at least one or two intimate (not necessarily romantic) relationships in our lives to be truly happy, and the more relationships and connectedness we have, the happier we are. It’s meaningful relationships that are important here, not the number of social media friends we have. Conflict in any form will stifle the relationship driver, as will the loss or absence of a meaningful relationship.


Choosing our work, the people we work with, and how, when, and where we do our job drives harmony. Conversely, we resent being micromanaged, having to perform tedious tasks that keep us from doing more fulfilling projects we love, or being tied to arbitrary schedules that deprive us of the flexibility to balance hectic work and family commitments. Autonomy is also important in our personal lives. Having the freedom to choose our actions, relationships, and words is what autonomy is all about. Being deprived of those freedoms is a significant hit to having harmony in our lives.


When we feel unfairly treated (or believe someone important to us has been), we are often motivated to right the perceived wrong. Justice, vengeance, and envy are all related to the fairness driver. When any of these feelings creep into our lives, we feel out of harmony.


The well-being driver encompasses health (both in mind and body) and incorporates rest and fun. We can’t be in harmony if we’re tired, unhealthy, in pain, or running so fast that we can’t catch our breath. Laughter and fun also fall into this bucket. Having a healthy dose of humor and levity in our daily interactions reduces stress and improves our overall sense of well-being.


The comfort in knowing, or at least feeling, that future events won’t harm or negatively affect us drives harmony. Of course, different levels of security exist. At the most basic level, we must feel physically safe from harm and have both shelter and food. Once those basic needs are met, the security driver is influenced by knowing: (1) our job/means of providing for ourselves and those we love is secure; (2) that we are saving enough for our futures and that our possessions and investments are safe; and (3) that our relationships feel strong. Any factor that affects these three areas and makes our lives less predictable will have a negative impact on the security driver.

The Influencers of Harmony

We can’t physically touch the feelings behind the personal engagement drivers, but we can influence them. That’s where the harmony influencers come into play. Although, it’s important to keep in mind again that the definition of harmony is fluid, and that our idea of harmony might look and feel different from yours. Because our list of harmony influencers is exhaustive and any of the things one does to influence the harmony drivers counts, it’s helpful in identifying the ways we can improve harmony in our lives. We break these influencers in our Balance Framework into three categories: Alignment, Living, and Managing:

Alignment Influencers

Alignment of Purpose, Plans, Goals, Time & Energy, and Belief is the first key to personal engagement. Stepping back as individuals and assessing each of these influencers will build a strong foundation upon which to build a harmonious life.

Living Influencers

The Living Influencers – Tools, Routines & Habits, Communication, Learning, Rules, Family & Friends, Money, and Environment – are at our disposal to drive change in our lives. Once our Alignment Influencers are calibrated and in a good place, we can turn to these Living influencers to make more tactical improvements to our day-to-day lives.

Managing Influencers

Lastly, the Managing Influencers – Measurement and Adjustments – helps us stay on track. They allow us to look critically at our level of commitment and whether we’re taking the necessary steps to bring our lives into harmony and keep us there.

Using the Tool and Making Harmony Improvements

The table below provides examples of the influencers and how they might affect our individual drivers, either positively or negatively. The creative application of these influencers can result in a rich set of actions and ideas that will enhance multiple aspects of life.

But how do you use the Personal Engagement Framework to change your life?

First, think through how you feel about each harmony driver. How do you feel about the Growth in your life, your Relationships, your Autonomy, Security, Fairness, and Well-Being? Are they all where they need to be, or is one or more of the drivers currently out of whack? If you find that a driver is not where you’d like it to be, look at the column for that driver and identify its influencers. Then consider implementing some of the tactics noted by those influencers.

For example, if we feel insecure in some aspect of our life, say our finances, we will follow the security column down through each row/influencer to generate ideas on what we can do about it. For example, we would ask ourselves questions like:

  • How could a plan help here?
  • What habits or routines could I build to address this problem?
  • What tools, or software, might help me?
  • How could communication help, either through expert advice or a conversation with someone else?
  • What skills could I learn that would help?

This could lead us to put a financial plan in place, establish a new routine or habit like tracking a budget, start using a financial management application, communicate with an expert who can provide advice, or learn a new skill that increases our earning power or our ability to manage our finances in a spreadsheet. Those are just a few examples. Spending time thinking through how we can use each influencer to address our problem can help us generate more, and better, ideas than just trying to brainstorm off the top of our head.

In the end, we believe you’ll find that the Personal Engagement Framework is a useful tool for diagnosing where your life – or that of your partner, friend, mentee, etc. – is in disharmony. And once you’ve identified which harmony drivers need shoring up, you can use the harmony influencers to make adjustments and improvements.

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