It’s a Finnish term for extraordinary courage. More than a momentary decision, Sisu is about sustaining rationality and our will to go on in the face of adversity.
Not to be confused with hopeless optimism, Sisu acknowledges the situation at hand for exactly what it is, AND the possibility of what could be beyond it. Sisu sees what could be done, acknowledges what should be done, and says, “It must be done.”
Sisu appears only when we feel our humanity most. The moment when our bodies fill with dread so thick that even thinking of facing it makes us sick to our stomach. The feeling that we’ve been conditioned to hate from the moment we were born, to avoid whenever we can. The desperation of feeling as though we’ve reached the absolute limits to our ability as a human; that what is being asked of us next, we are not able to do.
That feeling? That’s Sisu.
We’ve been trained to abhor it, but it’s actually the opportunity of a lifetime. To step into Sisu, we must step out of every bit of comfort, security, and protection that we’ve built for ourselves, and show up as our whole self. To choose with intent to continue to try even though we feel we’ve already reached our limits. Exposed on purpose for the cause of what is right, what is good, what is important. There we are, with all we are.
What a generous act.
There’s one more thing about Sisu: it doesn’t consider cost. It knows what must be done and it does it, regardless of what it takes. Now, it would be easy for us to look at our personal adversities and immediately begin calculating the associated costs of seeking Sisu (the least of which being financial). The better question though might be: What would it cost us not to?