Sisu: The Finnish Art Of Courage And Determination That We Should All Adopt

Last updated by Katie M.

Designated as the happiest country in the world by the World Happiness Report in 2018, Finland is said to be the home of a unique art of happiness: sisu. It enables us to reconnect with ourselves, to honour our energy, our will and ability to adapt. Ready to try sisu on a daily basis to be happy?

Sisu: The Finnish Art Of Courage And Determination That We Should All Adopt

At a time when we are all looking for happiness, sisu is proving to be a precious ally. Despite it remaining mostly within Finnish borders, it is becoming increasingly popular. Discover the secrets of happiness from the land of a thousand lakes!

What is Finnish sisu?

The term “sisu” has no equivalent in English, although it could be similar to “guts”. Strength originates in the stomach. It’s therefore the ability to go beyond our perceived limits and exploit our reserves of courage. Several character traits are inextricably linked to sisu, for example, courage, bravery, will, tenacity, resistance, stoicism and resilience. This Finnish virtue is described in a book by the author Joanna Nylund: Sisu, the Finnish Art of Courage.


Did you know that...

Sisu is a true national symbol in Finland. It is part of the three “S” that characterise the country: “Sisu, sauna, salmiakki” (the latter is a savoury delicacy).


The origins of sisu

Although nobody knows its exact origin, one thing is for sure: the myth of sisu developed during the Second World War. Finland, invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939, proved the strength of sisu during the winter war. In a strong position, the Russians had many more troops than the Finns, yet one thing tipped the balance in favour of the land of a thousand lakes. Sisu, their art of courage, enabled them to triumph and force the enemy troops to retreat.

It's known as the Finnish art of courage and stoic determination

Living with sisu means going off the beaten track and forcing yourself to change your daily habits. It is better to advance step by step to a goal rather than accomplishing a heroic feat. It’s therefore essential to set yourself goals adapted to your abilities. To achieve perseverance, the fundamental value remains patience. It’s giving yourself the strength to advance every day, even during difficult times, in a serene, courageous and persevering way. It therefore means managing your stress and anxiety. Sisu forces us to take control of our fears and to temper our panic. Negative emotions mustn’t paralyse us. We mustn’t flee from problems but face up to them in order to find adapted solutions.

With sisu, maintaining honest and integral relationships is key. It is important to listen and be respectful. Respecting each other but also ourselves means improving our quality of life. This is a fundamental virtue for the Finns. The most important thing for sisu is therefore trying, and if it ends in failure, accepting defeat without disparaging ourselves. Resilience is the sine qua non for complete sisu. Failure enables us to learn and move forward in life.

Sisu can be applied in all areas of life, whether it is at work, in relationships with others or even in education. In conclusion, we can say that sisu forces us to listen to our instincts and not to be scared of what others think. Independence and freedom are at the heart of this way of life.

Editor’s note: Move!


Are you wondering where to start? It’s difficult to tame sisu for a non-Finn! Start by moving as much as possible: forget the lift, take the stairs instead, get your bike out as often as possible to do the shopping or to go to work, go for a walk in the woods, whatever the weather. Don’t let the elements decide for you, face the cold, rain or even snow. It’s by getting out of your comfort zone that you will energise your existence and fill your inner courage.

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