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Man practicing the finish art of Sisu and how you find your sisu

Find Your Sisu: 4 Ways to Master Finland’s Resilience Powerhouse


Ever tried to find your sisu? If you’re shaking your head, don’t worry – most folks outside of Finland might draw a blank, too. No, it’s not a sushi roll or an exotic cocktail. It’s something far more intriguing and transformative.

 Sisu is a Finnish concept that runs deep in their culture – kind of like the heartbeat beneath the chest. 

Imagine it’s a frigid winter night in the Finnish wilderness. You’re lost and alone, but something inside pushes you forward instead of surrendering to despair. That unyielding spirit? That’s Sisu. This isn’t just about having guts or grit; it’s courage and resilience on steroids!

And guess what? It’s not just for surviving frosty Nordic nights; it can help transform personal growth, professional success, and even relationships.

Eager to know more? Let’s take an icy plunge of how do you apply Sisu in your life.


Unraveling the Concept of Sisu

“Sisu” might be a term unfamiliar to many outside of Finland, but its power is universal. This four-letter word, deeply rooted in Finnish culture, embodies resilience, determination, and unyielding courage in the face of adversity. Picture this: you’re in an intense game of soccer, down by two goals with mere minutes remaining. As the pressure mounts, that indomitable spirit that pushes you to fight back, to defy the odds, is Sisu. 

It’s not just about weathering the storm but charging into it with the audacity of David facing Goliath. This is more than just a word; it’s the Finnish DNA, a concept echoing what The New York Times terms as “stress resilience.” Dive into the world of sisu and discover a philosophy of strength and tenacity that’s more impactful than Mike Tyson’s punch in his prime.

The Origins of Sisu

The term ‘Sisu’ isn’t just a recent buzzword; its legacy runs deep in Finland, tracing back centuries. Its significance was most notably on display during World War II, when the Finns, against daunting odds, fiercely resisted an invading Soviet army. Prime Minister Risto Ryti’s bold proclamation, “We have only one goal… victory,” epitomized this indomitable spirit. 

Fast forward to recent times, Elisabet Lahti from Finland-based Aalto University brought the essence of sisu to global attention. But Lahti didn’t just theorize about sisu; she exemplified it. Embarking on a staggering 2400km/50-day ultra run and bike journey across the length of New Zealand in 2018, she championed the cause of domestic violence victims, transforming the essence of sisu from words to undeniable action.

Now, you might be musing, “So basically, Finns are badass, and I’m not?” Well, no. The beauty of Sisu is that it’s not exclusive to Finns. Sisu is within us all, waiting to be awakened. Recall a challenging moment in your life – a looming deadline or a tough discussion. Overwhelmed? Maybe. Defeated? Never. That resilient spirit that propelled you forward? That’s sisu.

An Untranslatable Term?

You may be thinking there must be an English equivalent for sisu – something like grit or perseverance, maybe? Nope. The beauty (and frustration) of sisu lies in its untranslatability. Sure, words like ‘grit’ or ‘perseverance’ touch upon aspects of it but fall short of capturing its essence completely.

HuffPost describes it as “the concept of acting rationally in the face of adversity.” It’s a form of dogged determination that arises not from hope or passion but from an unwavering commitment to overcome.

Find Your Sisu – The Backbone Of Finnish Identity

In Finland, sisu isn’t just an intangible concept; it’s a part of the daily existence. Finns value it so much that they have even designed their education system around nurturing this trait among youngsters. And let me tell you – when we say ‘youngsters,’ we’re talking about kids barely out of diapers learning cross-country skiing and other sports.

How Do You Apply Sisu to Create an Action-Oriented Mindset?

Sisu is about courage in the face of adversity. It’s not just running headfirst into trouble but standing tall when things get tough. The power lies in its persistence aspect; giving up isn’t part of the sisu vocabulary. This resilient attitude translates directly to an action-oriented mindset because you’re not backing down; instead, you’re getting shit done.

This might sound intense – almost Spartan-like – but remember that resilience doesn’t mean being hard-headed or stubborn for no reason. Instead, it involves adapting to circumstances while staying committed to our goals.

The magic happens when this mindset starts affecting every aspect of your life— from how you approach personal goals to dealing with challenging situations at work or in relationships. So, let’s dive into how Sisu cultivates an action-oriented mentality.

The Role of Action-Oriented Mindset

An action-oriented mindset doesn’t happen overnight—it’s cultivated over time with consistent effort and purposeful thinking. Like muscle memory from working out at the gym repeatedly until lifting weights becomes second nature. So, too, is developing an ‘action-first’ mentality through daily practice and patience.

In essence, embracing Sisu leads us towards cultivating such a mentality where we proactively take charge of our lives rather than passively react to circumstances. It’s like switching from being a chess piece on the board, at the mercy of other players’ moves, to becoming the player who strategizes and controls the game.

Cultivating Resilience

Sisu doesn’t only inspire movement; it also breeds resilience—an essential quality in maintaining momentum during tough times. Positive Psychology explains how resilience helps us bounce back from setbacks by reframing failures as opportunities for learning instead of roadblocks.

This shift in outlook can have a powerful effect on our activities. Rather than being immobilized by fear of failure, sisu, rooted in Positive Psychology encourages us to persist despite the circumstances.

Driving Purposeful Action

Sisu is not just about taking action—it’s about taking purposeful action. The real power behind Sisu lies in its ability to convert thoughts into action. Let’s say you’ve got this grand idea or goal—start your own business, write a book, climb Mount Everest—it doesn’t matter how ambitious it is.

This relentless pursuit gives birth to an unyielding spirit that fuels continual progress and breeds achievement—further promoting an active lifestyle. By connecting your actions with your values and ambitions, you are more likely to stay committed even when things get tough.

The Psychological Perspective of Sisu

Picture yourself in a frozen Finnish forest, battling harsh winds and numbing cold. You’re faced with an enormous fallen tree blocking your path. But instead of turning back, you summon an inner strength to keep going – that’s sisu. This psychological concept is not just about survival; it drives mental toughness and resilience.

Resilience: The Core Element of Sisu

If we were to dissect Sisu like one would do during high school biology class (only less gross), at its core you’d find resilience—a trait psychologists recognize as essential for overcoming life’s hurdles. You know those people who bounce back from setbacks stronger than before? That’s because they’ve got a healthy dose of resilience.

This isn’t just some fluffy theory either; research has linked resilient individuals with better mental health and increased life satisfaction.

Mental Toughness: Powered by Finnish Grit

Moving past mere survival, when applied actively, sisu can help us thrive amidst challenges—it fuels our mental toughness. If you’re wondering what ‘mental toughness’ looks like—imagine Rocky Balboa going another round even after getting pummeled time and again—yeah, that.

study published by the Journal Of Applied Psychology revealed how grit—a quality akin to sisu—predicts success over talent or IQ alone.

A Real-Life Example of Sisu

If you’re seeking a tangible embodiment of sisu, look no further than Esa Saarinen. This Finnish philosopher is not just an expert in the theory; he’s living proof that sisu can be harnessed for personal and societal change.

Esa Saarinen: A Philosopher with Grit

Born in a country where sisu is woven into the cultural fabric, Esa has always had this unyielding determination embedded within him. But it wasn’t until he faced some harsh realities that his inner Sisu ignited like never before.

In response to life’s challenges, instead of buckling under pressure, Esa took them head-on. He chose resilience over retreat – a decision guided by the principles of Sisu.

Esa Saarinen speaking about hot to find your SisuTurning Philosophy Into Action

Saarinen isn’t one to let ideas stagnate on paper or dwell only in scholarly debates – he believes firmly in putting words into action. His dynamic lectures are peppered with real-world examples and practical tips that allow listeners to see how philosophical concepts translate into everyday situations.


The goal? To inspire others towards positive change – whether it’s developing more effective thinking patterns or embracing lifelong learning. And at the heart of all this is his trusty sidekick – sisu.

In Esa’s world view (or should we say universe?), sisu isn’t merely a survival tool or an attitude that helps you grin and bear it when things get tough. It goes way beyond resilience and perseverance.

“Sisu,” says Esa Saarinen,” is about transformative action.”

A Beacon for Others

This relentless pursuit hasn’t gone unnoticed either. He demonstrates this by taking on daunting challenges head-on. For instance, Esa was one of the key architects behind a nationwide project called The Positive CV, which aimed to transform how young Finns perceive their potential and future.

Esa’s unique combination of philosophy and practicality, providing insights to all walks of life, has earned him a substantial following worldwide.

From students at the Aalto University, where he is a professor, to participants in his public lectures and seminars – Esa’s influence extends far beyond academic circles. His ability to inspire individuals and encourage them to embrace sisu as a lifestyle is nothing short of remarkable.

How do you apply Sisu in Personal Development?

In life’s game of dodgeball, problems are the balls thrown at us. Some we duck; others smack us right in the face. But what if you could use Sisu to catch those ‘balls’ and toss them back?

Passion Struck: Twelve Powerful Principles to Unlock Your Purpose and Ignite Your Most Powerful Life by John R. Miles with the next big idea club badge on it

It’s not about becoming invincible but learning to rise each time we fall because setbacks are stepping stones towards growth. Just like Batman needed his Batcave experiences (yup. It was dark and full of bats), embracing our challenges helps us develop grittier versions of ourselves. 

Let’s examine four ways to utilize sisu in our personal lives:

Mindset Shift: See Challenges as Pathways

Embracing sisu starts with a perspective shift. Consider setbacks as gateways, not barriers. Encountered a problem? Explore it. What’s the lesson? Perhaps a hidden strength or a weakness to address?

Grit and Tenacity: Stoke Your Inner Fire

Sisu isn’t just about enduring but pushing through with unwavering determination, like marathon runners who push through pain because the finish line beckons, apply this vigor to personal growth.

Courage in Action: Defeat Fear with Audacity

Sisu is about courageous action. As Mark Manson articulates in his books, choose the struggles that matter. Identify a current fear hindering your growth and boldly challenge it.

Integrity: Live Authentically

Stand firm in your beliefs. This might involve setting boundaries or making hard choices that resonate with your core values. Brené Brown emphasizes the transformative power of vulnerability and authenticity – embody it.

How do you apply the principles of Sisu to your career?

Surely, we all know someone who seems unstoppable at work – not because they have superhuman powers but because they tap into this thing called sisu. What if I said that you can use your inner sisu to propel your career? Let’s examine 3 ways to apply Sisu in your career:

Developing Resilience: Embrace the falls

The first step toward incorporating sisu into your career begins with building resilience. The corporate landscape is fraught with hurdles. Sisu helps transform setbacks into catalysts for growth. Remember, resilience turns adversity into an asset. Building resilience isn’t easy, but it’s worth every effort because it turns adversity into an advantage.

Fostering Grit: Commitment to Long-Term Aspirations

The second step is to harness grit. Angela Duckworth  spotlighted the power of “grit.” But at its heart, grit shares its core with sisu: a relentless drive for enduring goals. In your professional journey, integrate sisu by committing fully to your dreams and facing challenges with unwavering resolve. It’s not just about reaching success or fearing failure, but the deep-rooted courage—captured perfectly by ‘sisu’—that makes all the difference.

Pursuing Passionate Work: Celebrate the Journey

The third step towards embodying sisu professionally involves choosing a career that aligns with your core values and using it as a vehicle to make meaningful contributions. More than just finding a job you love, sisu emphasizes valuing the hard work and sacrifices it entails. It’s about cherishing both the destination and the journey.

How do you apply Sisu in Love and Relationships?

Just as stormy winds test the strength of an oak tree, our relationships face trials that test their durability. Here’s where Sisu steps into play. It can help you build stronger bonds, foster understanding, and create lasting love.

But how does one apply this seemingly elusive strength to their relationships? Here are some practical strategies:

Navigating Relationship Storms: Directly Address Challenges

No relationship is immune from challenges; they’re inevitable. With Sisu by your side, navigating these stormy seas becomes less daunting.

Sisu empowers us to face problems head-on instead of avoiding them or hoping they’ll magically disappear. This proactive approach often leads to healthier discussions and more effective solutions.

Building Trust: Uphold Honesty

Incorporating Sisu into our relationships also means being brave enough to practice honesty and transparency consistently. Sure, telling hard truths can be uncomfortable at times but doing so builds trust – a critical ingredient for any successful relationship.

Maintaining Independence: Cultivate Connection

A common misconception is that strong relationships require individuals to lose themselves completely in each other. In reality, maintaining individuality while nurturing connection creates a healthy balance – an area where sisu shines brightly. Embracing independence fosters personal growth, ultimately enriching the shared bond between partners.

Fostering Emotional Resilience: Practice Self-Compassion

Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs when we least expect them. Self-compassion, an essential aspect of sisu, encourages kindness towards oneself during difficult times instead of harsh self-criticism. This not only aids in emotional recovery but also boosts our ability to bounce back stronger than before.

Nurturing a relationship is challenging; it requires persistent work to keep the spark alive. It demands consistent effort, something that hits the nail right on the head.

Sisu’s Global Relevance:

The allure of sisu? Its universal resonance. It speaks to human tenacity. It’s a beacon during challenges.

Sisu’s essence is evident globally, from Olympians’ determination to communities battling crises. Whether during Australia’s wildfires or Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion, the echoes of sisu are evident. 

Conclusion: The Essence and Echo of Sisu

We’ve journeyed through the profound depths of Sisu, from its Finnish origins to its transformative power in action-driven pursuits.

But beyond its definition, what does Sisu truly signify? It represents an indomitable spirit, a resilience that doesn’t just endure but thrives even when the odds seem insurmountable. Esa Saarinen encapsulated it best: it’s not merely about surviving but flourishing.

Sisu isn’t bound by landscapes or adventures. It’s the catalyst behind personal evolution, the wind beneath the wings of burgeoning careers, and the heartbeat of enduring meaningful relationships. 

Let’s end with a reflection: Sisu is more than just a word. It’s a testament to human tenacity, the reservoir of strength, determination, and tenacity within each of us. As you move forward, ask yourself: How will you channel your inner ‘sisu’ to reshape your life’s narrative?

If you want to continue to build on how you instill mattering into your life, please refer to my upcoming book, Passion Struck: 12 Powerful Principles to Unlock Your Purpose and Unleash Your Most Intentional Life, which is now available for pre-order.

I also wrote about Shameflammation, which is essential for helping you learn how to identify and conquer your inner demons.

Thank you for taking the time to engage with my perspectives. May your journey be filled with joy, growth, and fulfillment.

As a new reader, please check my personal growth and well-being stories reflecting my reviews, observations, and decades of research and interviews.

The Power of Choice, Overcoming Traumatic Brain Injury, Reverse Aging, Significance, Optimal Anxiety, Person of Courage, The Power of Hope, Being Stuck, Curiosity, Awe, 5 AM Club, Strong Moral Compass, Psychological Immune System, Playing The Long Game, Drama Addiction, Trust Building Exercises, Taking The Road Less Traveled, Why Passion is the New Currency, Unreseasonable Hospitality, Five Senses, Digital Addiction, When to Quit, Effortless Perfection, Mental Immunity, Sensory Experiences, The Value of Struggle, Overcome Challenges, Victim Mentality, Anger Management, Gratitude, Vulnerability, Free Will, and the Power of Asking.

You might find more information about my professional background. You can listen to the #1 Alternative Health Podcast, Passion Struck, with John R. Miles. You may join Medium with my referral link to enjoy unlimited content. 



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