Here in the UK, spring has most certainly sprung. I’ve done my decluttering, sorted my capsule wardrobe and now I’m itching to get outside and embrace the adventures of summer. The camping trips, the barbecues…yes, we have the occasional sunny day that allows us to pursue such endeavours at 51° 00′ N – don’t you worry!
This time of year may evoke mild frustration over which jacket is most suitable and dread as I contemplate the idea of getting my glow-in-the-dark legs out in front of the general public (eek!), but overall I feel a renewed sense of eagerness to shed my skin and take on new challenges. It’s those buds on the trees and the leaving work in daylight that has stirred me from my winter slumber and gotten me motivated to take action.
The frozen months are for hygge: coziness and comfort. Winter can offer us a precious opportunity for introspection, should we be wise enough to take it. Time spent tackling our list of must-reads, taking a new class, experimenting in the kitchen and getting together with our nearest and dearest is what hygge is all about. And while we can (and should!) experience the joy of hygge at any time of year, there’s a new Scandi term that has been dancing over my tongue these past couple weeks. In the same way a fine Bordeaux accompanies a good cheese, sisu matches the spring in my step and I just can’t get enough of it.
Sisu is the word the Finnish use to describe their sense of character. It essentially means a cultivated endurance and sense of courage in the face of adversity. Like most fantastic words in languages scattered throughout the world, there’s no direct translation in English.
As we bid farewell to our winter selves and prepare for the adventures that lie ahead this summer, we’d all do well to draw on a little of this Finnish resilience and integrity as we step out of our comfort zones and into the potential of a more fulfilling life. It’s an oldie but a goodie that life truly begins at the edge of our comfort zone and sisu can teach us about having faith and overcoming the mental hurdles that too often prevent us from reaching our goals.
There are many ways that we can adopt this Scandi frame of mind and not all involve a monstrous leap into the unknown. In fact, it’s the accumulation of mini leaps that gets us from A to B, if you really stop and think about it. What matters is maintaining a sense of determination, even when things get tough. Especially when things get tough. It’s in those moments that our character is tested and we experience the greatest scope for personal growth.
Whatever your goal, no matter how monumental and unachievable you feel it may be, I want to tell you that it can be done. It might almost kill you. You might lose a lot of sleep, be forced to make some painful decisions and sacrifices and temporarily look and feel a little rubbish, but most things won’t actually kill you. Instead, they actually make you stronger and it’s important that you keep that in mind.
I did what felt like an impossible feat last year; I ended a messy long-term relationship and finally pursued a degree at the grad school of my dreams. I felt akin to a zombie throughout the process while juggling everything else on my plate, but almost a year down the line, I couldn’t be happier with all of the hard work that I put in. Seeing how I’ve made things happen for myself only keeps propelling me further forward in a positive feedback loop of sorts. Ordinary people can make extraordinary things happen if they just stick at it. Believe me.
Whether it’s turning your side hustle into a business, making the decision to go back to school, or finally putting yourself out there in a capacity that feels authentic to you, nothing is impossible if you start cultivating a little more sisu in your life. There are a few principles to keep in mind and a staggering return on investment awaits you if you take the plunge.
How to infuse your life with sisu
1. Stick to your guns. The most successful individuals are those that live according to their values, even when the going gets tough. It can be exhausting trying to do right by your beliefs when it’s not the popular choice, but in the long run, it truly serves you so much better than taking the easy road. We cultivate a quiet sense of respect for ourselves – an inner integrity, if you will – when we make decisions that align with our values and others see that too.
2. Remember that humility is beautiful. We are not perfect and making mistakes is an essential component of the human experience. For some reason, most of us feel a a great deal of shame in admitting we are wrong, but embracing our imperfections draws others to us like moths to a flame. A strong leader can admit when she is wrong, because she knows that there is wisdom in the perpetual quest to better herself.
3. Self-discipline and spontaneity can exist in harmony. We are multi-faceted and we can be many things. We can create a daily habit of practicing our craft and still keep our senses open and ready for intuitive signs that scheduling unscheduled time might help carry us that little bit further forward.
4. Those courageous moments are what you will remember as you look back over your life. Pause for a second and think about your proudest achievements. Were they not a result of at least a little blood, sweat and tears? Why not fill your life with more of those things that do you proud.
5. The most intimate connections are made in the face of adversity. It is those conversations we have as we help each other overcome a problem or the hand we lend to the person struggling that draws upon our most beautiful, compassionate nature. It is during these difficult times that we get a real glimpse into the soul of one another, so remember your humility and reap the rewards of the emotional connection that comes from asking for help.
How can you cultivate sisu in your life?
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