Adversities form 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 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 anyway. At the core of sisu is the idea that, in each of us, there is more strength than 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 at first there seems to be none.
Adopting this lifestyle is all about adopting an attitude of never giving up or giving in. No matter what life throws your way, it will help you stay hopeful, strong, and persevere. You know that second wind you get when you are running out of energy? That strength that comes from nowhere which helps you move on with your life? That is Sisu, an unstoppable force that kicks in when all other sources of motivation are depleted. In fact, in Finland telling someone they have Sisu is one of the nicest things you can say. It is like using just one word to let them know that they have strength of character and personality.
So how can you achieve inner strength and adopt this life philosophy? Don’t worry, even if you think that you are spineless and you have no guts, having Sisu it’s something that can be learned. Are you ready to change your mindset and find that power that lies within you?
Find your focus
Prepare kids for school, make the breakfast, get to work, prepare for a meeting, remind your partner about the dry cleaning, call the handyman, clean your home… During the day our attention is often being pulled in all directions at once, that we forget to focus on ourselves. Therefore, make sure you schedule some alone time and spend 20 minutes doing nothing. Yes, nothing! Just sit there in silence and after your thoughts stop swarming around you will be able to recognize and acknowledge those anxieties and worries that come to the surface. Just by learning more about your current state of mind you can help yourself redirect your energy.
Return to your roots
Do you know what is the most powerful antidepressant in the world? Nature! However, we seem to forget that and instead spend our days, months, years stuck indoors. Spending time outside and exercising can do wonders for our mental health, so don’t hesitate to include walking, hiking or swimming into your daily schedule. Get yourself a pair of best long distance running shoes, explore trails around your hometown and find a secluded nature spot you can visit when you need to clear your mind.
Make things happen
Every New Year’s wed make a list of things we want to do, see or become. However, by February we have already thrown that list in the trash and completely forgotten about it. If you want to adopt the Sisu lifestyle, you need to start making things happen. Set a clearly defined goal, but make sure it is realistic. Maybe you want to be a famous rock star by the end of this year, but most likely that won’t happen. Instead, set a goal that is actually achievable in reality and start working towards it. Although achieving it might seem like a big bite, keep in mind that every journey starts with a single step. Instead of chasing one, big goal, focus on smaller ones that lead to it.
After all, Sisu is all about taking the first small step, rather than making a huge leap. Celebrate those milestones and be proud of them, since they are the ones that will help you keep your eyes on the prize. We all want instant gratification, and if we don’t get it we tend to give up. By marking smaller achievements you will get the boost you need to stay on the right track.
When it comes to Sisu, you need to find the balance. Pushing yourself is not a bad thing, but if you go overboard you can cause burnout. Yes, Sisu is about dealing with challenges and tackling them head-on, but it is also about knowing when to take a break or ask for help.