Navigating the Path to Happiness: Exploring Resilience and Responsibility in Europe

Julkaistu 17.6.2024

Key note -speech at JCI European Senate 55th Anniversary seminar

The 14th of June 2024, Oulu Cathedral

Dear friends, distinguished audience, Congratulations to European Senate on its 55th anniversary!

It is an honour to stand before you today. It is wonderful to talk about a universally cherished topic: happiness. What could be more important and inspiring than that? Who doesn’t want to be happy! Seeking and experiencing happiness is a fundamental aspect of human nature. I would like to share with you, what I think it means and requires to live fulfilling lives in a complex and rapidly changing world. As a spoiler alert I can already say: it does not mean that everything needs to be perfect. Life is never perfect, regardless what influencers we follow on social media want us to think. It means being able to enjoy what is good in each moment and being able to look forward in life, despite whatever challenges and changes we have around us.


Our perspective is Europe but of course I need to start with Finland. As you probably have already heard, Finland is the happiest country in the world! Something that might be difficult to believe in, at least for us Finns, as we are also known for things such as: long, cold and dark winters, high consumption of rather bad coffee, high consumption of alcohol and drugs, high numbers of mental health issues, high numbers of domestic violence. As a member of parliament, I am very much aware of the challenges in our society. We are the happiest people in the world, in one of the most equal and developed countries in the world, but we have challenges. People in Finland have problems. Finland as a country has problems.


Finland as a country has problems, but we also have something called sisu. Have you heard of it? Sisu is a small word but surprisingly difficult to explain. Sisu can not be translated, but is has to do with words like determination, guts, courage, willpower. Sisu is part of Finnish national identity. It is Finnish resilience. And I believe sisu has something to do with happiness. What are resilience and happiness, actually? What do they have to do with each other? And what do they have to do with politics and the future of Europe?


Resilience became a trend word during the pandemic and it became even more important when Russia started the war in Europe. Resilience is the capacity to adapt and flourish despite adversity. How are we prepared and able to act in crises? Resilience is the determination of a young entrepreneur innovating, regardless of economic uncertainty. Resilience is communities rebuilding and coming together after natural disasters. It is countries preparing for growing amount of natural disasters, due to climate change! At the moment the most important thing in our minds needs to be continuing support for Ukraine against Russia’s brutal aggression. Winning that war requires resilience and unity from Europe. Especially in the midst of uncertainty, risks and threats, it is important to take care of resilience both at the level of society and at the level of each individual. Resilience is first and foremost about psychology. An important thing about resilience: It definitely requires the ability to see hope even during the darkest moments. Some people, some communities and some societies already have better capacities for resilience than others. But the good news is: resilience can be developed! It is a skill that you can learn and became better at.


And so is happiness. You can learn happiness too! You can actually study happiness at Harvard University. For free, online. A year ago I actually did. I was a negotiator in the government negotiations. I was chairing a table that negotiated on environment policy of the current government: environmental responsibility, nature, waters and circular economy. It was intense! Not exactly happy, but exciting times. It felt really meaningful. After a few weeks of sitting from dust till dawn in a windowless meeting room, I realized I needed to do something to get my mind of the ongoing negotiation process. So I started studying happiness through an online course for Harvard University titled ”Managing happiness”.

What did I learn during the course? I will give you the insight in two minutes. First of all: what is happiness? It is enjoyment, satisfaction and meaning. Happiness consists of four big categories of investment. And we need them all:

  • Life philosophy, your sense of the world, your personal values
  • Family (you cannot choose)
  • Friends (you can choose)
  • Meaningful work (feeling of earning success, having meaning and serving others)

None of these four make you happy on their own. You need them all.

The second thing I learned:

  • 50% happiness is inherited (You cannot choose your genes nor your family. Unfortunately not all parents are good, not all genes are good. But some are.)
  • 25% of happiness is the surrounding circumstances (you cannot choose the circumstances you are born to and you can not control fully the circumstances around you even as an adult. But to some extent you can)
  • The remaining 25% comes from portfolio that is under your control! (You can not choose your family, but you can choose your friends. You can learn new things and develop your skills. You can choose to make decisions based on your values! You can choose how you treat other people and how you face different situations.)


How is responsibility linked to happiness and resilience? Through our values. Remember that values were the first of four big categories of investment you need in able to be happy. Our values are also behind resilience. When we act according to our values, we know what we stand for and are true to ourselves. This brings certainty and inner peace, which in turn increases our happiness and resilience. When we live according to our values, we are better equipped to face life’s challenges and accomplish more. We know what we are after and why, and this clarity helps us stand firm also when we face uncertainty and challenges. Responsibility means recognizing that our actions and decisions affect not only ourselves but also those around us – and moreover, those who come after us! It is the commitment to creating a better future, not just for ourselves, but for future generations.


In Europe, this sense of responsibility has always been a cornerstone of our social fabric. European Union is originally a peace project, build on shared values! These values are put to test every day in our efforts to combat security issues, climate change, in our dedication to social justice, as well as in our commitment to the human rights and rule of law.

While working as a decision maker, I constantly remind myself that the decisions we make today, build the world for future generations. (This is actually also the basic premise of futures studies: the decisions we make today direct our future. If we want to lead towards a vision of a future we desire, we need to know what that vision is and then make decisions that direct us towards that desired future.)

I hope and believe that this premise is also in the focus of, at least the majority, of the newly elected European Parliament. Decision makers in Europe face many wicked problems that require solutions, responsible decisions, right now. These are not easy times. Europe had it easy for a short period of time when I was a kid: the economic growth, development of democracy, equality and peace! When I started in politics 15 years ago, all development seemed to be positive, for the better. Positive development was too easy to take for granted. Unfortunately, that positive development was not constant. It was not for granted.

Which means that today we need to work harder for that development! Decision by decision. If responsibility is a value for us, then our decisions need to be responsible! We need to work for those values! There are people and powers that don’t share the same values as we do, and they are working hard to weaken them. Mr Putin hates the values we have here in Europe, so he started a war against them. We need to protect our values, we need to fight Russia back and make sure we win that fight! Slava Ukraini!


Security is our number one concern at the moment in Europe. I want to mention another huge threat of our time: climate crisis. It is the decision makers of our time that need to solve this crisis.

In Europe, we are committed to the European Green Deal. It is not perfect, but we need it. This ambitious plan aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It is a bold and necessary step, driven by the understanding that we have responsibility to protect our planet. The Green Deal is more than just a policy; it is a promise to our children and grandchildren that we will not just stand by while their future is in danger. It is our collective responsibility.

The health of our planet is of course strongly linked to our happiness, too. Clean air, clean water, and a stable climate should not by luxuries – they are necessities for a good life. Europe has taken significant strides in environmental and climate protection, yet there is much more work needed. And not that much time. We must continue to innovate, to push for cleaner technologies, and to support sustainable practices across all sectors of society.

Moreover, the pursuit of responsibility, resilience and happiness cannot be separated from the concept of sustainable development and social security. And for that we need a stable and growing economy. I will not go into the topic of economy, due to lack of time, but I just want to mention that a resilient and happy society makes it possible for people to pursue their dreams without fear of falling through the cracks. From the economic perspective, happiness is also important because, according to research, happy people make better decisions and are more effective in their work. Happy people work harder!


Earlier this week I started to prepare for this speech. So what does one do when they have a key note speech coming? No, I did not use AI. Sometimes I do, but I wanted this speech to come from the heart.

What I did, I opened my Instagram. I posted some of my thoughts on happiness and resilience in my stories and then asked my followers, what they thought brings them happiness and what increases resilience.

So two questions: happiness and resilience. Surprisingly, the answers were very much alike! People seemed to give the same answers to both questions. And the answers were pretty much in line with what research shows us:

Happiness is not found in isolation or individualism. It is found in the connections we have with other people, in the communities we build, in the values we share. In our collective responsibility for our common future.

This was something I also learned from The Managing happiness -course. During the course, Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School professor Arthur Brooks had a discussion with Dalai Lama. They talked about how, in the end, happiness comes from love for others. From being useful and having purpose. And highest purpose is caring for others, lifting others. Unhappiness is caused by self-centredness. So, happiness and resilience are build not only on our values, but on the trust and dialogue we have with other people! We need people around us.

I want to share one key learning I have in life and especially in politics. Even if you are the smartest person with all the answers, with all the solutions, with all right opinions – you will not achieve anything alone. In the end, no one gets anything done alone! We are lucky to have a democratic system and the core idea of that system is that no one can make decisions on their own. Results require cooperation, not confrontation. I am committed to keeping this in mind as a politician every single day.

Dear friends,

Navigating the path to happiness requires resilience and responsibility. It is a journey that asks us to consider the broader impact of our actions. And when this journey is taken together, it will lead to a happier Europe.

So I will conclude with one final thought. If you want to develop resilience, if you want to be happy: try to understand, support and help other people.