I’m always interested in new ways to develop my own mental toughness to build mental strength and highly recommend this fascinating interview by Michelle McQuaid with Emilia Lahti, a practitioner in Sisu, a 500-year old Finnish cultural construct.
According to Wikipedia, Sisu is a grim, gritty, white-knuckle form of courage that is typically presented in situations where success is achieved against seemingly impossible odds. It is used by the Finns to express their national character and is generally considered not to have a literal equivalent in English although it would be closely related to a combination of mental toughness, stoic determination, grit, bravery and resilience.
Sisu doesn’t apply to the everyday hassles you may experience, but rather helps you deal with significant adversities and tough challenges. It’s about finding that extra source of energy to help you keep going even though you feel exhausted and depleted.
Sisu is about short intense bursts of extraordinary strength and courage to stretch yourself beyond your capacities to overcome tough obstacles or breach difficult gaps. And whereas resilience is being able to bounce back from adversity or stress, you need Sisu to keep fighting the undercurrents before you get to this moment.
In the interview Lahti explains “We are all capable of exceeding ourselves during times of significant stress or adversity by tapping into the deep resources and energy that we may not have realised even existed”.
She suggests five ways to build mental strength through the use of Sisu:
Build psychological safety
The belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake is critical for fostering more Sisu in workplaces. Psychological safety can give you the space to speak your mind and stand up for what is important, be innovative, and take action despite the risk of failing or making mistakes.
Adopt an action mindset
Rather than shying away from challenges, when you demonstrate Sisu you have a consistent and courageous approach of taking action in the face of stress or adversity, despite your fears and uncertainties. It involves having a growth mindset where you see potential failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and continually improve.
Recall moments of Sisu
The negativity bias we all have, means that it’s easier to recall the times when you haven’t coped or things haven’t gone well. Overcome your inner critic by taking the time to consider a tough time in your past when you exceeded your expectations to get through. Write this down and use it when you need to remind yourself that you have a good track record of overcoming adversity.
Reach out to others
Sometimes when you’re struggling in a dark place you may find it difficult to ask for help. However, it’s not always possible to do it alone, and by reaching out to others you can gain power by having your strength and courage reflected back to you from someone else’s eyes.
Create space for Sisu in others
So they can also tap into their inner energy and power to reach their best potential. Use genuine compassion when your colleagues are going through tough times to recognize their suffering as part of what we all share to be human, and respond in ways to understand or alleviate their pain.
View full article on SISU by Michelle McQuaid published in Huffington Post.
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