Sisu : The Finnish Way Of Living And Winning


The Finnish concept of Sisu, traced as strength, determination and perseverance may seem impossible for many. The concept held as the national character of the Finns is generally considered not to have a literal equivalent in any language other than Finnish. The word Sisu originates from ‘sisus’, which literally means ‘guts’ or ‘the intestines’ in Finnish. But what is it, exactly?

Sisu: The Finnish Way Of Living And Winning

Sisu is an almost mythical Finnish quality that is reserved for the especially challenging moments. Finns believe themselves to have the energy and determination when they feel that they came to the end point of their preconceived capacities. Sisu is also perceived as a route through survival and success after going through physical, emotional and psychological endurance. The concept of Sisu arises in a person at the moment when you realise the need to reach beyond what you think you are capable of.

Sisu as a psychological capacity

Sisu: The Finnish Way Of Living And Winning

Sisu is something like a “second wind” of inner strength that the Finns believes allows them to continue even when they thought they couldn’t. The term dates back hundreds of years and is considered integral to the Finnish culture and goes far beyond your mental or physical perception. Sisu is a central part of the country’s culture and collective discourse but has long seemed to have a somewhat elusive nature. The psychological construct of this cultural component among the Finns and Finnish Americans still remains poorly defined and under-researched.

Cultural significance of the unparalleled word

Sisu is culturally regarded by the Finns as their “favourite word” or “the most wonderful of all their words” and “the word that best explains Finland”. Roman Schatz in his book “From Finland with Love defines the term as the ability to successfully accomplish a task. The word got popularized in English for a generation in regard to the Finnish perseverance in the face of the invasion by the Soviet Union during the fmous Winter War.

Sisu: The Finnish Way Of Living And Winning


The continuing resonance in today’s Finnish culture history can be understood from the history of this concept. A dictionary by Finnish bishop Daniel Juslenius defined the word ‘sisucunda’ as the location in the human body where strong emotions take place. The concept emerged as a very good thing in the 1920s when the Finns needed to characterise themselves as an independent nation. It made Finns feel that there is something positive about themselves and gave them a reason to survive as a nation in the cold war.

Sisu in Finland’s sporting culture

The concept of Sisu is frequently incorporated in Finland’s sporting achievements and milestones in physical endurance. Veikka Gustafsson, the first Finn to climb Mount Everest in 1993 became a national symbol of symbol in the 1990s. He climbed peaks in Antarctica and named one of the ‘Mount Sisu’ and even his five-year-old son is also called Sisu.

Sisu: The Finnish Way Of Living And Winning

Unlike many other comparable concepts of many other cultures like the Japanese ‘ganbaru’ and British ‘stiff upper lip’, Sisu has captured the imagination abroad. This Finnish way of doing things is believed to make Finns happy and independent, and while that is true, social provisions and education has helped the Finn lead fulfilled lives. 

Did you like learning about the Finnish key to winning? You’ll also like Friluftsliv, the Norwegian key to a happy life.


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