Grit, resilience, perseverance in the face of adversity, moving beyond mental or physical limitations. None of these words taken by themselves describe the Finnish term, SISU, but taken together, describe the central culture of the Finnish people. The term sisu is a term of pride and importance to a people who have fought and persevered for independence, overcoming obstacles in the face of dark times.
It is a high compliment to be described as sisu by a Finn. When faced with an obstacle that feels insurmountable, instead of crawling into a corner, sisu brings about a determination and attitude of resolve to improve one’s life.
So, how do you tap into your own personal sisu when faced with an obstacle of magnitude? Visualize a positive outcome to your situation, and associate a timeline with it. This is, by far, the biggest determination of success in finding and leveraging your sisu.
Consider using a “six month” rule, where you know whatever you are facing today will be easier in six months. This one rule can help you professionally, during personnel changes, job changes, budget cuts, and unhappy clients. This can help you personally, with health concerns, changing jobs, relationship woes, parenting, and cross-country moves. If you stay stuck in the present situation without seeing the possibility for improvements, the stress can overwhelm you to a point of stagnation or be paralyzing. Recognizing your situation will be easier in six months, either mentally or physically, gives focus on making changes today, and each day, to support improving your situation.
There are, no doubt, obstacles which can impede visualizing a better outcome. Negative self-talk is one such obstacle. Let’s say you’ve been fired from a job. Or, you’ve just found out your partner has been unfaithful. Or, you have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. A normal response when faced with any of these situations is to have thoughts of self-doubt, worry, and fear. If you’re interested in improving your life, it’s important not to stay in that mindset. To get out of your head, find your personal cheerleaders. Confide in your situation with those who know you well, and who can help you see the attributes of yourself which may be blind to you in the moment. Your cheerleaders can give you perspective on the opportunities ahead of you, rather than dwell in what feels like quicksand. Rely on people to help you find your self-compassion, just as you would help them if the roles were reversed.
When you are facing a situation which feels overwhelming, tap into your own sisu by visualizing your life better than it is today. Keep your eye on that vision, and it will help you make decisions on a daily basis which will lead you out of your current hardship and into a better life.