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“Sisu” is a concept and way of living that has been interwoven into Finnish culture for more than 500 years .
It has no direct translation, but it is focused on determination and fortitude. It’s about having the grit to push forward in the face of adversity and near-impossible odds.
To gather firsthand data on sisu for my PhD studies, I completed a 1,500-mile running expedition across New Zealand. I dedicated my run to raising awareness about family violence. Each time I started to feel worn out or was on the verge of giving up, turning to that larger purpose helped me push forward.
When you take on a new challenge or need the strength to continue, find a greater purpose to connect with. It can be your family or friends, or someone who inspires you, or a cause that is close to your heart.
Practice and preparation makes it easier to harness our inner sisu. Studies show that our bodies have hidden reserves that it naturally draws upon when we need them most. So the more we challenge ourselves, the more we pick up on habits that bolster our resilience.
Focusing on my breathing to calm my nervous system was the strategy that improved my running. Over time, I went from a beginner to clocking in 10 to 15 miles a day.
I used to think that in order to be successful, I had to be hard on myself. But there’s a limit to how far you can go if you don’t balance toughness with compassion.
In Finland, walking and hiking in nature is a core part of our culture. It helps us find an inner calm and sense of happiness that serves us during hard times.
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