Do you have Sisu?

You know we just love positive thinking and always thriving for the best!

Here’s another word to look up to (and live to): SISU.

Sisu is a 500-year old Finnish construct, relating to mental toughness and the ability to endure significant stress while taking action against seemingly impossible odds. In its native country, sisu is a way of life, a philosophy, which has impacted the lives of generations of people. So far the construct has mainly been a well-kept secret of the Finns, but there are benefits to introducing it into the broader discourse. Here’s what the late researcher and psychologist, Chris Peterson, wrote about the Japanese term ikigai (translated as believing that one’s life is worth living):

”There are lessons to be learned in all cultures about what makes life worth living, and no language has a monopoly on the vocabulary for describing the good life. The notion of ikigai is a good reminder to positive psychologists in the United States that our science should not simply be western export.”

Wielding ‘sisu’ is nothing new to you if you have endured adversity in your life, or said yes to huge challenges, but you might not have had a word for it. The word is a perfect example of the many untapped cultural constructs that are waiting to be unlocked. Expanding our vocabulary and understanding regarding a phenomenon that is so integral to all human experience (overcoming adversity and enduring hardships) may prove indispensable during the formidable obstacles that we inevitably encounter at some point in life.

Adversities are indeed an integral part of human experience, but what is it that enables us to endure the toughest of situations and take action against nearly impossible odds? What keeps us going, when we feel we have reached the end of our abilities?

The small Nordic country of Finland has a cultural construct known as sisu, used to describe the enigmatic power that enables individuals to push through significant hardships. The term dates back hundreds of years. However, the idea of sisu is much older. It is a central part of Finnish collective discourse and can been seen as a life philosophy. Sisu is extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity. It’s about not seeing a silver lining in the clouds, and yet jumping into the storm anyways. At the core of sisu is the idea that in each of us there is more strength that meets the eye. Even though the construct of sisu has its roots in Finland, it is relevant to all human beings anywhere in the world. It is a potential which we all share and which can have a powerful impact on our daily lives. Sisu is embodied by people everywhere who defy the odds and hold on to hope when there at first seems to be none. 

Do you have Sisu?

SISU everyone!

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