6 6. The Road to Success

Chapter 6

The road to success – why pursue success at work?

Every human being’s life abounds with promises and opportunities, and strengths
and positive resources are not attributable only to certain people. Happiness and
satisfaction must be understood as the outcome of a process of interaction
between individual characteristics and aspirations on the one hand, and social
relations and macro-social structures on the other hand (Haller and Hadler 2006 ).
In this chapter, we will sum up the offering of the book. First, we want to
introduce the narratives of top workers. The purpose is to highlight the processual
nature of success: to determine the core human resources and how to use human
strengths and resources for one to develop into an expert. We will introduce the
main characteristics of participants’ careers (an analysis of their narratives). After
that, we present the meta-narrative of Employees of the Year on the basis of
narrative analysis. We will conclude the processual viewpoint by looking at the
connection between resources and expertise development in the light of success
at work.
In previous chapters we introduced our viewpoints, which focused on the
phenomenon of success. The analysis has proceeded from childhood to adolescence,
and from school to work life, not forgetting life outside work. Our
outlook has shown the fundamental positive approach to human development
and the meaning of recognising strengths. In this fi nal chapter, we want to highlight
two important concepts related to all previous viewpoints. Firstly, what
can be done with love when considered as one of the fundamental tenets of
positive psychology and fl ourishing, and how is it related to the process of
achieving success? Secondly, how can we connect the idea of love with success
and happiness?
We will recollect the main ideas of the previous chapters in the conclusion; we
will take a glance at the role of love in the human being’s lifespan and various
areas of life and show the connection with successful development. Following
this, we will move on to happiness and wrap up the analysis on the connection
between success and happiness.
Chapter 6
The road to success – why pursue
success at work?
114 Why pursue success at work?
How to describe successful career processes?
The careers of successful employees can be described on the basis of different
career models and types. By considering Driver’s ( 1982 ) divisions (linear, steady
state and spiral), it became clear that career types among the top workers were
quite dissimilar. One has had a linear career, similar to climbing up a ladder.
Someone else’s career appears to have been steadier, as his or her career-related
choices presented more like a long-term commitment to his or her occupation
and work, as well as diverse areas of mastery, and less striving for promotion.
Some of the top workers’ careers were both spiral and linear, that is, careers that
thrive on alteration and new tasks and, at the same time, have a forward-moving
The police’s, priest’s, psychologist’s and artisan’s careers exemplifi ed a linear
progression, even though they had proceeded without any major side-tracks in
their professions (cf. Inkson and Amundson 2002). It appeared that they had
educated themselves into their profession, enhanced their professional skills
through various in-service educational opportunities, and worked in positions that
were relevant to their profession. On the other hand, the nurse and farmer had
either educated themselves for a different occupation or previously worked in a
different fi eld and ended up in their present occupations through various life
phases. However, all top workers could be described with the metaphor of growth
whereby a career is understood as something organic, and one is constantly developing
and learning (Inkson and Amundson 2002 ).
An optimistic attitude is the most essential
factor in success at work
Finding an occupation that fits
In terms of actual career-enhancing factors, the top workers were able to point
to several considerations that they believed were salient. Interestingly, these
factors did not vary much between occupations. In the process of achieving
success at work, willingness to accept new challenges appeared to be an important
factor. Additionally, top workers kept their professional knowledge up to
date by in-service education and especially by voluntary education, often in their
leisure time.
Still, not all of them aimed for a higher position in the hierarchy, but they could
pursue developing their professional skills, getting more diverse work tasks, or
learning entirely new fi elds of know-how. Additionally, these matters were
considered to enhance their work motivation and ability to cope. At its best, a
workplace provides employees with the possibilities to develop, fi nd meaning for
life, and achieve social, emotional, and mental wellbeing (Snyder and Lopez
2002 ; see also Sennet 2004).
Why pursue success at work? 115
Obstacles and misjudgments
Above all, the most special characteristic among Employees of the Year was
their positive attitude, a characteristic common to all informants. In the face of
confl ict, they did not give up. Instead, they saw such situations as a good time to
reassess their occupational skills and, if necessary, to become further educated
and develop. Thus, confl ict situations were seen as problems that had to be
Major obstacles were represented as confl icts experienced in the workplace.
Employees of the Year emphasised the importance of good relationships in the
workplace – not only between co-workers but also vertically between employees
and employers. Other more concrete obstacles, such as fi re on the fi rm’s premises
or not passing an entrance examination, were confronted more realistically and
with an optimistic attitude.
Misjudgments were mainly specifi c to the period of their youth. These kinds of
sidetracks could be, for example, studying for an occupation that later turned out
to be unsuitable. With the aid of relevant counselling, educators may wish to
consider whether these misjudgments could be avoided. On the other hand,
misjudgments of this kind can often be useful; it is not always a waste of time
because the perspective gained from travelling on byways can actually be a valuable
To sum up, top workers’ career processes were not characterised by actual
failures per se; rather, it was all about acting in a constructive way and considering
those situations as opportunities for skills development.
Metaphors as analyzing tools
In order to aptly describe someone’s experience, it is necessary to fi nd ways of
expressing this experience. This can be, for example, by using a metaphor to
describe the experience by contrasting it with something familiar. Random,
multidimensional or ambiguous phenomena can be transformed into conscious
constructions that crystallise experiences into a culturally understandable form. A
metaphor can be defi ned as a manner of speech in which a certain concept can be
used for clarifying the meaning of some other concept (Inkson and Amundson
2002 ). Therefore, the use of metaphors in research resemble a high-level analysis
of the nature of the research target.
As the Employees of the Year were also interviewed through the narrative
method, their life stories formed narratives. Narratives and metaphors function as
the foundation of creativity in language and thinking – this idea can be employed
to represent phenomena in a new light. In a metaphor, a phenomenon is named
with a familiar word. While in poetry metaphors are merely used as aesthetic
tools, in science metaphors are used for the purpose of explaining research
116 Why pursue success at work?
Naturally, there are certain limits; it is relevant to consider when a metaphor
helps one to see the phenomenon in a new and fruitful manner. The danger is that
a metaphor simplifi es and presents a stereotypical picture of the phenomenon.
Next, we will introduce the process of becoming a top worker with a metaphor
of a road. The purpose is not to try to fi t top workers’ lives into one mould
but, instead, to present various illustrations of possible roads that all lead to
Metaphors can be divided, for example, into four categories. The fi rst category
concerns metaphors that are connected to the passing of time (the past, present
and future). In these metaphors, people can, for example, imagine themselves at
various points on the time continuum.
Second, archetypical metaphors represent common metaphoric images. Inkson
and Amundson ( 2002 ) name ten archetypical metaphors that describe careers:
1 Journey: seeing the career as a passage on the career path leading to a certain
2 Heritage: committing to a career as something inherited from one generation
to another;
3 Fit: thinking that work life and people have certain forms and the purpose is
to fi nd a fi t;
4 Seasons: the career is seen as a series of carefully defi ned phases, such as
spring, summer, fall and winter;
5 Growth: the career is seen as something organic that includes constant development
and learning;
6 Creative work: the career is seen as something that is self-built or constructed,
a sort of work of art;
7 Network: the career is seen collectively, closely connected to the norms of
the group;
8 Resource: this way of seeing the career originates from the concepts of
management of human resources; careers are connected to economic and
organisational planning;
9 Story: when the career is seen as a story, the narrative form and the creation
of meaning are emphasised;
10 Cultural phenomenon: the career is seen as the refl ection of our cultural
Third is theatre metaphors in which people are regarded as the actors in the drama
of work life. The fourth type is role metaphors, which make it possible to try
various roles and fi nd the most suitable ones for descriptive purposes.
For example, one Finnish researcher used the metaphor of the patchwork quilt
to describe the biographies of her research participants. Here, the metaphor of the
road describes the process of becoming a top worker; the road goes uphill and
downhill, it contains curves and straightaways, intersections, rest areas and sidetracks.
It is also quite common to compare life to a journey.
Why pursue success at work? 117
The ups were relatively easy to track from the stories of the Employees of the
Year. These could be divided into factors showing direction in one’s occupation
and development in one’s work. Nevertheless, fi nding differences between downs
and sidetracks was more challenging. For example, many of us have encountered
problems that put us in diffi cult situations. Usually, the situation necessitates
some sort of decision to be made. Crossroads, therefore, are not always related to
downs, setbacks or problems but can occur in the middle of a straight, good journey.
Moreover, an uphill can turn into a downhill after fi nding a solution proves
successful and choosing the right direction at the intersection.
Amundson ( 2005 ) has also used metaphors in problem-solving. He highlights
that a metaphor is a very effi cient means of separating the problem from the
person himself of herself; the metaphor externalises the problem and moves it to
a new level. Metaphoric images help with understanding what the situation is
really about. The same concerns research; metaphors help with interpretations of
the nature of the phenomenon studied.
Four roads to success at work
Success at work is not a temporary state but, rather, a process. This process will
now be described through the narratives of the Employees of the Year. The road
to success begins from childhood and then branches into four separate roads
before uniting again at the end.
Employee of the year: the journey begins
The journey begins from the childhood and adolescence of the Employee of the
Year. His parents encourage him to study and work, and support his choices.
They do not want to force him to choose a certain occupation but give important
advice: keep a resilient attitude towards work. How does the story continue? We
enter a crossroads that leads in four directions.
Road 1: straight ahead
At school, different occupations are introduced to our employee, but he does not
make his decision based on that. Instead, as a youngster, he has already formed
an idea about his fi eld of interest, mostly due to his admiration of his relatives’
career examples and life choices.
After completing compulsory education, he applies to a school that could
prepare him for his dream occupation. However, things do not always go according
to plan and he does not get into his desired school. Along the road, he fi nds
traffi c signs that lead him to an alternative path: he discovers a different road
leading to the occupation corresponding to his dream.
The road takes him on to working life. This is a very signifi cant phase in his
life, although getting used to work schedules and the requirements of different
118 Why pursue success at work?
tasks takes some time. He is an enthusiastic worker with a great desire to
learn. He looks for more and more responsibilities in order to enhance his
career. To advance and meet his challenges he continually educates and develops
He appreciates work that provides opportunities to develop his workplace and
himself. New challenges keep him interested and he constantly seeks opportunities
to take on additional responsibilities. Transitions into positions and taking on
new tasks are important road signs on his road to success.
However, his road is not always like a smooth highway; he encounters some
bumpy gravel when he confronts obstacles and failures. He has a special way
of managing this situation; he sees these diffi culties as challenges. The desire
to work well and engage with work lie in his attitude. He wants to be totally
dedicated to his work and feels driven to accomplish all the tasks he has
Naturally, his dedication is shown in long work days and total concentration at
work. This is possible since his spouse takes care of the family. While the decision
on this division of labour has been made jointly, he still experiences some
compunction; surely, he realises that the more time he spends at work, the less
time he has to spend with his family.
Hobbies are important to this Employee of the Year. He may also make professional
use of skills acquired in his leisure time; a hobby may even offer an alternative
occupation. However, being aware that there is an option might be more
important than actually using that option.
The road of the Employee of this Year clearly goes straight ahead. He has
become an innovative and enthusiastic leader or supervisor in his professional
fi eld, wanting to devise new solutions and to develop work for the benefi t of all.
This is why he has been nominated Employee of the Year. His work has been
After this reward, the Employee of the Year continues along the same way; he
seeks new challenges or possibilities to get promoted. He is not likely to change
his occupation.
Road II: driving on all the lines
This employee has determined his occupational fi eld early on. He gets into a
school of his choice and applies himself. He even goes to his local career counselling
offi ce to be sure of his occupational choice. Moreover, he takes up work in
places that prepare him for his dream fi eld, and this confi rms to him that he is
going in the right direction.
After his studies, he receives the position of his dreams and is an extremely
diligent and devoted worker. His transition from school to work is not easy, but
it is made easier by a mentoring system in the workplace as well as a supportive
and open-minded work community. The employee advances in his career from
one project to another and faces challenges that seem overwhelming afterwards.
Why pursue success at work? 119
This suits his way of working. He also studies during his career, both at work
and during his leisure time. Opportunities for further education are considered
‘ups’ in his road whereas confl icts between co-workers are seen as ‘downs’. He
fi nds these situations particularly stressful but still tries to work persistently
because he likes his area of work. Changing jobs may, however, be the only
option because he needs to be surrounded by a good work atmosphere.
Openness and giving and receiving feedback are important to him. However, he
thinks that positive feedback is believable only if it is consistent with his own
One of the most crucial decisions concerns combining work and family life
because he wants them to be in balance. This is challenging because of his
demanding work. The spouses often adjust their schedules in a way that allows
both to work and to be at home, especially when their children are small.
As a result of his dedication the employee climbs the ladder to higher and
higher positions. He is then nominated Employee of the Year. This is an important
leg in his journey, confi rming that he has chosen the right road.
His hobby represents both a counterbalance to work and a valuable leisure
activity. At the end, when he retires, a good, long-term hobby could turn out to
be surprisingly signifi cant because it might offer a way to direct his energy to
things he is interested in.
Road III: choosing the safe mid-way
At school, this Employee of the Year received some career counselling, but it was
not of much help to him. He is not at all sure of what he wants to do and goes to
vocational school after deliberating with his friend. After a few sidetracks, he
fi nds a route to the right way in military service.
At the beginning of his career he works in different positions. He is interested
in his fi eld and eagerly learns new skills. After a few years, he lands himself a
position that seems to be right for him. Being promoted is less important to him
than working autonomously and developing himself and his work. He enjoys
working and is good at it. He also thinks that good social relationships are valuable
at work. He likes to brainstorm with colleagues. In addition, he reveres
giving and receiving feedback.
This Employee of the Year also invests in his family life. He wants to combine
work and family, especially when children are young. Thus, successful scheduling
with his spouse brings plenty of joy and enhances his success.
This top worker thinks that the Employee of the Year nomination results from
his diligence and appreciation for his work, but he also recognises the signifi –
cance of social relationships behind the nomination.
Following his nomination, his road goes on as it did before. He has never
considered a career change and is unlikely to do so in the future. He has found
the right way; by obtaining new skills and profi ciency, the rest of his journey
remains interesting.
120 Why pursue success at work?
Road IV: from byways to the interstate
After compulsory education this employee fi nds himself at a fundamental crossroads.
He does not have a clue where he should be heading when he is already
supposed to have made a decision about his vocational education. In career counselling,
the only assistance he receives is to select between general upper secondary
education and vocational school, which is of no help. He has to do something,
so he goes to vocational school. Soon, he realises that he does not fi t into his fi eld
of study. He travels on several byways until, at some point, he fi nds a signpost
that leads him to the right direction. This kind of signpost could be found during
non-military service, a gap year or summer job.
Driving on byways is not a complete waste of time because he matures and
gains a better perspective on life along the way. Critically, he must have enough
strength to search within and listen to himself. Finding the right road is important;
ultimately, however, this can be the result of coincidence or happenstance.
Finally, the employee begins work in a job that he feels is most suitable. He
enhances his professional skills with various courses and further education. He is
also anxious to participate in in-service education. Keeping his work content
interesting is of great importance to him. He approaches his work systematically
and deepens his knowledge by gaining new areas of expertise.
Good social relationships enhance his career journey and he considers a
supportive work environment and the open fl ow of information important to work
satisfaction and coping. Still, confl ict situations can occur and he sees them as
especially stressful and motivation-diminishing. Other obstacles might present
themselves too. The time might come to think about what would be the best solution
and way forward.
The employee does not have children; work plays such a major role in his life
that distinguishing between work and leisure time sometimes seems impossible.
Hobbies present a way to concentrate on something other than work.
His road has come to the point where he is nominated Employee of the Year
because of his talents and dedication. He will continue along this path, because
he has found – after wandering aimlessly in his early life – a fi eld that really suits
him and that allows him to use his talents and act innovatively.
The remainder of the journey
The career of the Employee of the Year does not end with this nomination; nor
does this mean that there is nothing left to achieve. Instead, this top worker
continues to seek new challenges and develop his professional skills. He will not
change his occupational fi eld although working is not always a bed of roses. He
has found the right way.
Therefore, seeing the fi nishing line looming up could represent a diffi cult phase
for the Employee of the Year. Letting go of the work to which he has been
devoted and that has played a major role in his life will not be easy. Firstly, he
Why pursue success at work? 121
has to admit that he is getting older. As retirement nears, one has to cut back on
work tasks and start planning for life after work. If there were no life outside
work, retirement could appear intimidating and seem like the end of the journey.
But as an Employee of the Year he will know how to deal with life after work;
he will regard it as a challenge and an opportunity to fi nd another successful road
for the rest of his journey.
What do the stories reveal to us?
Success at work is not a temporary state but, rather, a process; the top workers’
careers were not equally logical, organised, controlled and phased. Instead of
career planning, the concept of career skills could be relevant in describing the
career journeys of these rewarded employees. This means that their careers are
seen as expedient and built on the basis of a process in which they have been
active and innovative in their search for the most suitable routes to proceed
(Amundson 2005 ).
There are a number of felicitous ways of describing and analysing the top
workers’ career processes. For example, according to Baltes and Freund’s ( 2006 )
selection-optimisation-compensation (SOC) model, development through the
whole lifespan has three fundamental processes. The combination of these
processes is an effi cient and versatile mechanism that individuals, groups and
societies can use in order to achieve higher action levels and to control future
challenges. The rewarded Employees of the Year had selected an occupation that
was the best fi t for them, they had optimised their talents and professional skills,
and when it came to compensation, they were able to, for example, change their
plans in order to successfully handle challenging or confl ict situation.
Gardner et al . ( 2001 ) encourage people to look at their work from three
perspectives: the mission (the nature of the work and why society pays for doing
this particular work – what the work’s meaning is), the standards (what kind of
performance is expected for this particular work and what kind of employee can
best perform this work), and the identity of the work (what the ethical and moral
features of the work are and how they are justifi ed). This is precisely the kind of
refl ection in which the Employee of the Year nominees constantly engaged
during their careers.
Then again, the ability to consciously control behaviour when needed has been
seen to be an essential prerequisite for the functioning and wellbeing of human
beings. People with this ability, such as the Employees of the Year, are persistent,
fl exible, and are more prone to positive emotions than negative ones and to
handle the stressful situations in life effi ciently (Baltes and Freund 2006 ).
In many ways, the Employees of the Year were quite different from each other
as we would expect from people with unique characteristics. All things considered,
the core success factor is that you have an optimistic attitude toward work
and to life in general, as well as toward yourself; without faith in yourself, there
is no point in trying to succeed. Maddux ( 2002 ) sums up the recipe for success in
122 Why pursue success at work?
the following brilliant way: ‘This truth is that believing that you can accomplish
what you want to accomplish is one of the most important ingredients – perhaps
the most important ingredient – in the recipe for success’.
On the connection between human resources
and expertise
The careers of top workers appeared process-like, similar to the development of
expertise. No doubt, all top workers participating in our studies were also experts
in their fi elds. Expertise is a concept that generally refers to the special know-how
of different professions (Sim and Kim 2010 ), although the understanding of the
nature of expertise is shown to vary, for example, by nationality (Boudreau et al .
2001 ; Germain and Ruiz 2009 ). Experts are people who possess the ultimate
skills and knowledge of their own fi eld. They usually have long working experience
and are able to apply their professional ability in practice. Thus, a certain
amount of education and work experience is usually required to become an
Although becoming an expert is an individual process, common features in that
process are the pursuit of employing topical information about how to develop
one’s own work, a refl ective approach to work, strong self-direction and selfassessment.
For example, Marie-Line Germain’s Generalized Expertise Measure
(see, for example, Germain and Ruiz 2009 ) includes 16 items that describe the
core of expertise. There are fi ve objective items that are categorised as evidencebased
items, while the remaining 11 items are subjective in nature and are categorised
as self-enhancement items because of their behavioural component.
The emphasis on self-enhancement or subjective items seems clear and this is
the core of our discussion. There are many reasons, and various elements of
expertise, such as a sense of coherence, strong self-esteem and a sense of competence,
which seem to prevent employees from burning out; instead, the path to
wellbeing, according to Kalimo et al . ( 2003 ), is based on strong internal personal
resources and challenging work.
However, development toward expertise does not consist only of the use of
human and social resources. According to Luthans et al . ( 2004 ) knowing ‘who I
am’ is as equally important as ‘what I know’ and ‘who I know’. The researchers
call it ‘positive psychological capital’ and claim that by focusing on personal
strengths and good qualities, employees’ confi dence, hope, optimism and resilience
can be developed. Self-confi dent and optimistic employees are open to
development and focused on gaining higher levels of expertise, and are thus able
to perform more effectively.
When the aim is to analyse people’s opportunities for achieving success, happiness
and positive work experiences, human resources are one possible way of
approaching the issue. They also form the basis of developing expertise. Our
understanding is that the basis of success and wellbeing at work can be illustrated
as four fundamental human resources, each considered valuable and important
Why pursue success at work? 123
keys to happiness and wellbeing at work and life and the development toward
greater expertise and success:
1 Positive feelings enhance intellectual thinking and problem-solving skills,
decrease defensive attitudes, deliberate, improve memory and helpfulness.
Therefore, they function as an employee’s emotional resources at work.
2 Good interaction skills such as empathy, fl exibility, patience, care and interest
are signifi cant social resources that support the creation and preservation
of good and close relationships.
3 Features such as willpower, self-regulation, self-appreciation and inner motivation
are regarded as cognitive resources.
4 The fourth dimension is action. At its best, employees may experience joy of
work, work drive, empowerment and reach the experiences of fl ow when
they are riveted by tasks where their expertise is employed, where they have
the possibility to develop on a level where they are ready to work to the
limits of their talents. Here, these kinds of resources are referred to as functional
When a human being is able to get the most of his or her resources, he or she is
likely to get positive feedback and recognition from others, succeed and experience
heightened self-appreciation. The employee wants to develop and strives in
order to perform better. Through this kind of professional development, the
employee notices his or her success and abilities and can become an active expert
who expects good things to happen – in other words, this employee is optimistic.
We claim that this kind of positive cycle lays the foundation for fi nding happiness
at work as it represents the true opportunity of self-fulfi llment at work and a
positive path.
Happiness and satisfaction must be understood as outcomes of an interactive
process between individual characteristics and aspirations, on the one hand, and
social relations and macro-social structures, on the other hand (Haller and Hadler
2006 ). Kinjerski and Skrypnek ( 2006 ) have listed factors that are associated with
individuals’ experiences of spirit at work. These factors can also be considered
essential in defi nitions of love for work:
1 Leaders and senior members who inspire employees through their leadership
and example;
2 A strong organisational foundation that includes a shared vision, mission,
purpose and an intention to contribute to the overall good of society;
3 Organisational integrity and work that is aligned with its mission and
4 Positive workplace culture, including a positive physical space for employees
to work in;
5 Positive connections between all members and a sense of community in the
124 Why pursue success at work?
6 Opportunities for members to pursue professional and personal growth and
to fulfi l their own personal mission through work; and
7 Appreciation and regard for the contributions made by its members
(Kinjerski and Skrypnek 2006 : 290–291).
Kinjerski and Skrypnek’s description is interesting as it presents only one reference
on physical working conditions (the positive physical space for employees
to work in) while the others refer to inspiration, mission and purpose, good intention
and integrity, as well as to positive culture and inter-worker connections,
including appreciation. Opportunities to develop oneself professionally and
personally, for their part, also strengthen positive feelings toward work.
The use of resources and development and positive experiences at work can
develop into ‘love for work’. Love for work resembles voluntary altruistic or
helpful acts that have the potential to enhance organisations, otherwise referred
to as organisational citizenship behaviour. Individuals may make voluntary
contributions that go beyond specifi c task performance or the psychological
contract with the employer and these behaviours are intended to help people and
the organisation.
But how do you fi nd love for work? How do you enjoy work so much that you
can honestly say that you love it? From where can we draw this positive state – or
better yet, where does this love come from? How can one grow into such a person
who knows his or her weaknesses and strengths and believes in his or her opportunities
and talents? We will now sum up our fi ndings from our love research.
Love – the greatest of all
In previous chapters, we referred to love in many connections throughout this
book. Our fundamental assumption is that love, in the sense we represent here, is
a manifestation of balanced development, satisfaction and acceptance of oneself,
and of an optimistic attitude toward the others and the surrounding environment.
The very fi rst form of love in a child’s life is parental love expressed by the
child’s parents (Määttä and Uusiautti 2012 ). Parents have the main responsibility
for rearing their children but they can do it in a way that enhances positive development.
Parental love secures children’s wellbeing and positive development in
at least two ways: 1) by setting safe boundaries and 2) constructing self-esteem.
Children need experiences of success, appreciation and encouragement, but
equally important is that children have distinct and safe limits. Parental love
appreciates the child and does not abandon the child even when his or her behaviour
causes disappointment and trouble. Successful rearing does not clear the
obstacles of life but helps children learn to confront, tolerate and overcome the
inevitable diffi culties. Parental love prepares the child for the future and attitudes
toward the world – all people and phenomena in it – are learned from home. This
was very apparent in top workers’ autobiographical narratives as well. Every
parent can be loving and thus provide their children with the fi rst requisites for
Why pursue success at work? 125
fi nding their strengths, appreciating themselves, and being open to the opportunities
the world offers them.
Along with parental love, children may receive care and support from their
grandparents (Maijala et al . 2012 ). In many families, a grandparent is an important
member of the family and the family network (see, for example, Harper and
Ruicheva 2010 ; Johnson 1998 ). Grandparenthood involves various roles and
dimensions that affect how grandchildren are raised and nurtured. Grandparenthood
is part of the lifespan whereby grandmothers and grandfathers receive a signifi –
cant amount of resources from their grandchildren and create a good and harmonious
life. Grandparenthood can be dissected into the supporters and connectors
of intergenerational relationships. Usually, grandparenthood is perceived positively
(Powdthavee 2011 ) although grandparenthood itself has changed dramatically
over the decades (Sciplino et al . 2010 ). Grandparenting can enrich life in a
way that enhances the wellbeing of grandparents themselves and promotes their
successful ageing. Furthermore, grandparents’ roles are also developmentally
benefi cial, not only to grandchildren and their parents but also to grandparents
themselves (see Thiele and Whelan 2006 ). Fundamentally, the most important
task in grandparenting is the ability to act as a grandparent – in other words, to
love as a grandparent (Maijala et al . 2012 ).
Indeed, top workers talked about parents and grandparents who had encouraged
them, supported them, or acted as role models along their paths to success
at work. In addition, their stories showed that other types of close relationships
were crucial to their development such as, for example, friendships.
Plato (see Irwin 1979 ) and Aristotle ( 1981 ) contemplated what friendship was
all about and what characteristics a friend should possess. The phrase ‘platonic
friendship’ harks back to Ancient Greece and refers to a non-sexual friendship
(Leone and Hawkins 2006 ). As friendship is based on free choice, there have to
be reasons that people are encouraged to build friendships and reasons that
make them worth cherishing (Schmalenbach 1977/1922). Overall, friendship
has acquired a whole new meaning in modern everyday life (Lindgren 2012 ;
Pahl 2000 ).
In psychology, special attention has been paid to the selection of friends (for
example, Van de Bunt 1999 ), how friendship is born (for example, Hallinan
1979 ), and what kind of people become friends (Fisher 1982 ). There are several
theories about selecting friends. According to reinforcement theory, we like
people who reinforce us and our behaviour (Patterson 2007 ) whereas the investment
models say that we enjoy being with people we can benefi t from (Rusbult
et al . 2007 ). Friends share, for example, the same age and similar attitudes and
basic values. Friendship offers companionship and support that can be emotional,
practical and material (Allan 1989 ) – and therefore, friendships and love from a
friend can enhance one’s success and happiness in numerous ways.
We spend a great part of our lives in school, at various education levels. Also,
success processes described by top workers included rich and diverse memories
from school years. We have paid much attention to the role of caring teacherhood
126 Why pursue success at work?
on the road to success and, indeed, the love manifested by teachers cannot be
underestimated. The ethics of caring concerns teaching (Gilligan 1982 ) and, in
fact, caring has been discussed as the central aim and method of education (see
Burns and Rathbone 2010 ; Noddings 1988 ). A teacher’s ethical caring means
genuine caring, aspiring to understand and make an effort in terms of pupils’
protection, support and development. Because of this pedagogical caring, a
teacher especially pursues pupils’ potential to develop and thus help them to fi nd
and use their own strengths.
For decades, this kind of pedagogical love has been considered the core factor
in the defi nition of good teacherhood, though the characteristics of a good teacher
have always included various features. Features such as the ability to maintain
discipline and order, set a demanding goal level, and the mastery of substance
have been especially emphasised (see, for example, Davis 1993 ; Hansen 2009 ;
Zombylas 2007 ). Consequently, even teacher education has focused more, for
example, on teachers’ didactic skills, as well as the ability to teach subjects and
maintain social order (see, for example, Jakku-Sihvonen 2005 ). However, education
and teaching aimed at bringing out personalities cannot succeed without a
loving attitude (Haavio 1948 ). Indeed, Haavio ( 1948 ) has highlighted the moral
nature of pedagogical love; pedagogical love is addressed to every learner regardless
of his or her various outer abilities, features, appearance, behaviour or
personality traits. Pedagogical love is a way of teaching. Love appears in teaching
as guidance toward disciplined work, but also as patience, trust and forgiveness.
The purpose is not to make learning fun, easy or pleasing but to create a setting
for learning whereby pupils can use and develop their own resources and proceed
at the maximum of their own abilities. A teacher’s love for a pupil embodies the
continuous trust that there is more to a learner than is shown on the surface. For
instance, in situations in which a learner’s progress is slow or tangled, a loving
teacher takes care that the learner does not lose trust in his or her own learning in
times of frustration (see, for example, Hatt 2005 ; van Manen 1991; Äärelä 2012 ).
In adulthood, partner selection and mutual life after fi nding a suitable life
companion are topical. The form of love changes to romantic love. Seligman
( 2002 ) distinguishes the capacity to love from the capacity to be loved. People
with a secure love style fi nd it relatively easy to get close to others, and they do
not worry about being abandoned or someone getting too close (Seligman 2002 ).
Myers and Diener ( 1995 : 15) point out that ‘Throughout the Western world,
married people of both sexes report more happiness than those never married,
divorced, or separated’. Seligman ( 2002 ) claims that romantic love is more of a
potential factor of happiness than is job satisfaction, for example. This is also
important for the analysis of success. In Chapter 4, we showed that regardless of
solutions, people did not want to achieve success at the expense of other. This
does not feel right; but it has nothing to do with true happiness either.
We now come to work. All previous forms appear to set the foundation for love
for work (Uusiautti and Määttä 2011 ). Love for work invokes confl icting
emotions. Because of love for work, people stretch and enjoy the results of their
Why pursue success at work? 127
diligence. However, love for work can become enervating and can completely
consume one’s energy. Work, joy of work and success at work are, at best, the
spice of life and the most satisfying feeling.
Love for work provides the means for individual and societal development.
Positive concepts that describe wellbeing and happiness at work are relevant
highlights in discussions of the positive effects of work. Thus, work can become
not only the most satisfying element in life (Csikszentmihalyi 2008 ) but also add
focus and purpose in life – and is thus closely connected to happiness.
In all, successful development does not only mean success at work, but we
want to highlight the holistic nature of success thinking, especially from the point
of view of happiness. Still, love and happiness are quite personal matters.
According to our studies, love ultimately appears as actions: giving, caring,
responsibility and respect. Love can become an important source of satisfaction,
a creator of vigour and energy, and the footing of success.
Not just survival then, but flourishing!
Shawn Achor ( 2010 : 3) started his book on fi nding success and performance at
work by criticising the common belief: ‘If you work hard, you will become
successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy’. As the previous
chapters have shown, success does seem to require hard work. Yet, it is
possible to see the connection between success and happiness. Achor argues that
happiness comes fi rst, which then leads to success. He bases his viewpoint on
results from many other studies that happy people work more and better, are more
effi cient and, by being happy, they are also friendly and helpful; consequently,
they help the whole organisation to succeed.
While his conclusions are correct, this is not quite the same viewpoint we want
to offer. Our studies show that success and happiness go hand in hand. We will
discuss this in detail at the end of this chapter. But the key point is that the discovery
of human strengths, a balanced life, satisfaction and support can lead a person
to a path that is not only fi lled with feelings of happiness and a meaningful life
but also shows the way to success.
In Chapter 2, we presented a theoretical introduction to the elements of
success. The selection of certain concepts, such as (intrinsic) motivation, work
engagement, self-effi cacy and positive strategies, was deliberate as the purpose
was to explore the possible connection between success at work and human
More than four decades ago, Hall and Lawler ( 1970 : 272) stated that:
‘Successful integration of the individual with the organization can come about
where the job behaviors that lead to satisfaction of such higher-order needs as
autonomy, achievement, esteem, and self-fulfi llment also lead to high performance’.
Fostering organisational virtuousness (for example, through honesty,
interpersonal respect and compassion; combining the high standards of performance
with a culture of forgiveness and learning from mistakes) improves
128 Why pursue success at work?
employees’ affective wellbeing and promotes a more committed workforce
(Rego et al. 2011 ). In practical terms, this is illustrated in the phenomenon ‘the
joy of work’ (Varila and Lehtosaari 2001 ). It is a state experienced when an
employee works as an engaged subject who can actively and comprehensively
use his or her skills. In addition, the feeling of having found work that is suitable
for oneself is essential. It is possible to defi ne two kinds of joy of work: the
passive one can be described as contentment with the relationship between one’s
actions and reality. Thus, the joy of work is like an assessment. The active joy of
work results from active behaviour and is merely an inner feeling. The joy of
work can be a steady state, an overall happiness. However, it can also be experienced
as a captivating emotion when it actually resembles the experience of fl ow.
Is there a connection between success and happiness?
First, we want to highlight an interesting theory of personal happiness.
Dr Seligman ( 2002 ) distinguishes three levels in happiness: 1) pleasure and
gratifi cation, 2) embodiment of strengths and virtues, and 3) meaning and
purpose. He (Seligman 2002 : 160) states that:
while the pleasant life might bring more positive emotion to one’s life, to foster
a deeper, more enduring happiness, we need to explore the realm of meaning.
Without the application of one’s unique strengths and the development of
one’s virtues towards an end bigger than one’s self, one’s potential tends to be
whittled away by a mundane, inauthentic, empty pursuit of pleasure.
The point suggested by Seligman is profound and far-reaching. He argues that
through the use of signature strengths, people can have a meaningful life. Having
a meaningful life is therefore connected to authentic happiness. Why are people
happy when they utilise their strengths? The answer is because they have a sense
of ownership and authenticity, and feelings of excitement, invigoration, joy, zest
and enthusiasm (Seligman 2002 ). When people experience such positive
emotions and have the desire to employ these strengths, they also feel happy.
Likewise, instead of focusing on problems and stress-factors of today’s work
life, we wanted to focus this conceptual review on the positive sides of human
behaviour, development and success (see also Almost and Spence Laschinger
2002 ; Spence Laschinger et al . 2004 ). Figure 6.1 illustrates the interconnectedness
of the elements introduced above.
The fundamental idea of this illustration is that success is 1) dependent on
certain factors, 2) necessitates action, and 3) manifested through certain
The fi rst section of the diagram means that success in any area of life can
consist of various elements that can be roughly divided into individual-bound
factors and context-bound factors. They form the preconditions of success.
However, success is not a state that will miraculously materialise; it requires
Why pursue success at work? 129
action. Likewise, certain motivational and contextual factors play a salient role in
the process as they are also closely connected to a sense of capability or selfeffi
cacy (see for example, Duda and Nicholls 1992 ). When it comes to positive
development and the background factors of success, we have concluded that
‘experiences and events taking place in childhood and adolescence can be crucial,
or at least, direct people in a right direction’ (Uusiautti and Määttä 2013 : 69). So
the push toward to success can be a sum of many factors engendering a sense of
purposeful doing and, consequently, a sense of fi nding the right path. It means
that when the individual-bound and context-bound features are synchronised (see
also Magnusson and Mahoney 2006 ), the individual can seize the opportunities,
use his or her strengths, and actively pursue personal development. What then is
the result? Success in this perspective is manifested as positive emotions and
attitudes, which means a good feeling of oneself, one’s capability, and one’s
place in the world. This kind of sense of purpose and meaning are the core of
happiness (see Seligman 2002 ).
In sum, success is considered a combination of feelings of expertise, competence,
accomplishments, top performances, and the use of positive strategies (see
Uusiautti 2008, 2013; Uusiautti and Määttä 2010, 2011) within a particular
context. Therefore, success is not defi ned as the achievement of a certain goal or
position in life (for example, becoming a top pianist or a CEO). It is achievable
by anyone who discovers his or her strengths, fi nds the motivation to use them,
applies positive strategies, but also realises the opportunities and limitations of
the context. This viewpoint does not turn a blind eye to mistakes, hardships or
poor conditions. The question is merely about the realisation that success can be
– Intrinsic motivation;
– Wide/profound
– High-level/steady
– Positive strategies.
– Using one’s
– Seizing
– Pursuing personal
– Opportunities/
– Expectations;
– Demands/
– Positive emotions
and attitudes
toward oneself
and others;
– Sense of meaning
and purpose.
Figure 6.1 The elements of success and their interconnectedness (Uusiautti, 2013).
130 Why pursue success at work?
understood positively as a means of positive development and a route to wellbeing
and happiness at their fullest; moreover, success requires action and personal
effort. Although success has context-bound features, it is also quite individualistic
when seen as a manifestation of personal growth, effort and good outcomes.
Let us take an example. In order to be able to examine someone’s success, one
has to be competent in that particular area – for example, school mathematics.
Competence and the ability to learn are not suffi cient; one also has to have the
motivation to learn and use mathematics. Then, in order to be successful at mathematics,
one has to perform well in that area. The fourth dimension adds a longitudinal
aspect to success, that being positive strategies. In order to be successful
in mathematics one has to possess the necessary skills to optimise one’s development
by aiming to learn as widely as possible to become a straight-A student in
maths or in order to fi gure out a diffi cult task. All this happens in context; the
person can be encouraged, supported, taught and mentored by parents, friends,
relatives or teachers. The school can apply a mathematics curriculum that
enhances the mathematics enthusiast’s skills, and he or she seizes the opportunities
to utilise this maths talent. Success in maths can eventually lead to positive
feelings about oneself as a whole and ignite an optimistic attitude toward one’s
chances and the future; mathematics could also be something one can continue to
work with in later life. This is the foundation of success. When these areas
overlap, the individual can develop and grow to his or her fullest, use his or her
strengths, have positive experiences and have a sense of purpose in life. For the
aforementioned mathematics enthusiast, being able to learn about maths and
using mathematical talents, fi nding pleasure and joy from learning and working
with maths, and then fi nding it important and meaningful, can provide him or her
with positively-toned success that becomes a source of happiness that can be
found by fi nding strengths and interests and actively applying them in life.
Happiness as the by-product of the pursuit of success
It seems, therefore, that from the viewpoint presented here, success is connected
to happiness. Why is it important to talk about happiness? Happiness is not only
important to individual people themselves, but it also benefi ts society as a whole
(Gilpin 2008 ). According to numerous studies on happiness, happy people have
been shown to be open, courageous, trusting and helpful (Seligman et al . 2005 ;
see also Gilpin 2008 ); friendly and non-materialistic (see, for example, Fishbach
and Labroo 2007 ; Otake et al . 2006 ; Polak and McCullough 2006 ); and cooperative,
pro-social, benevolent and ‘other-centered’ (Lyubomirsky et al . 2005 ). The
positive feeling of using one’s strength is ultimately connected to authenticity.
This is where strengths and authentic experiences are connected to happiness and
wellbeing. But they are also connected to another phenomenon, namely, success.
Evidence suggests that happy people perform better at work than those who
report low wellbeing. Furthermore, happy workers are better organisational citizens
because they help other people at work in various ways (see Diener and
Why pursue success at work? 131
Seligman 2004 ). Happiness can be directly translated into engagement, productivity
and satisfaction – the wide defi nition of productive work (see Prewitt 2003 ).
Likewise, according to Lyubomirsky et al . ( 2005 ), positive affect is associated
with multiple positive outcomes, including better performance ratings at work,
higher salaries and improved health.
Like happiness, success is a subjective, personal experience, and personal
achievements are evaluated in different ways (Maddux 2002 ). However, this
theoretical analysis on success sought to highlight that we need to understand the
cognitive and motivational processes that maintain and even increase positive
spirits and emotions important for, for example, problem-solving skills, innovative
action (Isen 2001; 2003) and happiness (see also Lyubomirsky 2001 ;
Ojanen 2001 ).
Luthans et al . ( 2004 : 49) call for the recognition of the full force of the importance
of human factors in meeting the tremendous challenges faced in work life
now and in the future. Germain and Ruiz ( 2009 ) point out that an expert is not
only someone who knows information but also someone who is able to apply and
transfer knowledge. Moreover, the goal of today’s occupational education should
at least be the development of the expertise of trainees. We agree with Mikucka
( 2013 : 259) that ‘good work, work that fi ts human needs, does not have to be the
luxury of the rich classes and the rich developed societies’. Indeed, our purpose
is to contribute to this discussion by highlighting the signifi cance of various
human resources to the singular employee’s abilities to not only confront the
challenges set by work today, as well as in the future, but also to develop, experience
expertise, success and, consequently, to fi nd fulfi llment in his or her work.
Better yet, on the basis of what we have learned from the top workers, the ability
to express oneself as one really is can be seen as crucial when work becomes a
labour of love.
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