Year of Sisu 2015

Info on the inaugural Day of Sisu Event on February 28th in Helsinki, and the Global Hour of Sisu Challenge on March 10th

Adversities are a natural part of the human experience. What is it that enables us to persevere through hardships despite feeling we have reached the end of our capacities?

The small Nordic country of Finland has a cultural construct known as sisu, used to describe the enigmatic power that enables individuals to push through unbearable challenges. Sisu as a term dates back hundreds of years, but the idea of sisu is much older. It is one of the most essential concepts of Finnish culture, yet it has remained poorly defined and understudied. Recently, sisu has become the focus of the first ever systematic research which seeks to explore, understand and even measure it, and perhaps expand our understanding of the determinants of resilience, achievement and mental toughness. It’s time to give the ‘sixth gear of stamina’ some airtime.

Wait… what’s going on and why?

Since its initiation in 2013, the research (& its related survey which garnered over 1,000 responses) has caught the attention of many, including writers from media publications such as Forbes, Business Insider, Scientific American and the main media in Finland. As a response to this enthusiasm, my friends at Filosofian Akatemia and I decided to create something exciting and extraordinary.

There is much more strength to us than meets the eye. The Year of Sisu 2015 is a call of action to recognize and celebrate the strength that resides in each one of us, and transcends beyond cultural and geographical boundaries. Sisu and the will to persevere are a universal language.

We believe that cultivating sisu carries profound potential not only for empowering isolated individuals here and there, but for elevating our collective capacity in a way that is conducive to system-wide flourishing and a better future.

Sisu is a new term in the field of positive psychology and may contribute to our understanding of the determinants of resilience, posttraumatic growth and the pursuit of ‘the good life’.
sisu definition final sisu lab quotes
The goal of the research, as well as that of the Year of Sisu, is to expand the realms of our language and understanding, and to thus transform the ways in which we perceive our abilities. The Year of Sisu is built around this idea and is organized by Filosofian Akatemia, and its supporting partners in Finland (we are already a big group).

The initiative has no political or commercial agenda or hidden motives. It seeks to deliver the message that we have the potential to be stronger than the adversities we encounter and that through social support, we can seek to create a more positive, safe and empowering future for all.

The year kicks off with an inspiring event at Korjaamo in Helsinki on the official Day of Sisu on February 28th. Yup, Sisu as a name has been added to the Finnish calendar for the first time in its 500-year history.

How to participate from anywhere in the world

In February-March, there are TWO official opportunities.

Naturally, we welcome your own sisuesque ideas, too! If you come up with an idea for your own epic sisu event or cause, we are happy to support you and promote it on our site. This is YOUR year and we are excited to offer #Sisu2015 as a launch pad for you and your community, as you spring forward toward the best version of yourself.

I. The initial kick-off event will take place in Helsinki, Finland but our goal is to make the Day of Sisu on February 28th an annual, global celebration of human strength. However, already this year we are extending you an invitation to join us by organizing an event, a gathering, meeting, workout, race, story group or any kind of (big or small) communal effort to share your stories on sisu and create pockets of social support within your neighborhood. Let’s remember Einstein’s words: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.”

Year of Sisu 2015

It is within our social ties and willingness to nurture resilience in our communities where true strength and sisu reside.

If you can’t join a group of get together with friends, celebrate February 28th in your own way and find support from our sisu communities (-> Sisu – Global or Sisu – Finland (in Finnish), which together consist of over 5,200 members across the world.

II. On March 10th, there will be a global challenge called the Hour of Sisu. During one hour (e.g. between 3 PM and 4 PM your local time) you are encouraged to do one thing that you know would benefit you, but which you have been putting off. It’s something that may scare you but which will help you push your boundaries in a healthy, empowering way. The goal is to turn these boundaries (e.g. fear, uncertainty, complacency or desire for comfort) into frontiers.

Hour of Sisu could involve applying for a new job or a school, signing up or participating for a marathon or some other event that will challenge you, going for your first run, swimming in ice water (just a thought), going out of your way to mentor someone, perhaps reconciling with someone, or deciding on and taking the first step toward your dream (I quit my secure job two years ago to follow my calling – it was scary, but I have not regretted my decision). Doing whatever it is that you have been wanting to but haven’t had the guts, chutzpah, ganbaru, sisu, rasmia, courage or the right momentum. We are here to give you a nudge, support you and help you support yourself.

Ready, set, GO!


  • Plan and organize a meetup, get-together or some other form of event at your local community on the Day of Sisu, February 28th. The goal is to create a space to share our sisu stories and/or do something sisuesque together. We all have sisu and we have stories to share. We also often perform best when we have supports from a group. On February 28th, let’s inspire and be inspired! Our stories + social support = epic action.
  • Choose your #HourOfSisu action for March 10th. Mark it in your calendar (super bright red marker and/or loud alarm recommended) and get mentally prepared to follow through. Remember, one action might begin a massive ripple effect and as Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100% of all the shots you don’t take.”
  • Don’t quite know what that action could be or where to shoot? You know, I still remember the exact moment when I read these following lines in a blog post by Rich Roll. Perhaps meditating on this will help you find a direction. Take a moment and be honest to yourself. (For me, it is helping survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and challenging myself mentally and physically). Now here’s the question:

What makes your heart beat hardest?”

Answer this question for yourself. Then move in that direction with every fiber of your being.

…and here is a quote by Howard Thurman. It is one my favorites:

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.

Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

2. SHARE your SISU:

Before the events

  • Tell your friends (or anyone who might benefit from getting some sisu in their system) about the Year of Sisu! You are free to use all the quotes, images and other Sisu Lab material found on this site and our Facebook group (w/credits).
  • Protip: If you are planning for an event for February 28th, drop me an email here and I will add you to our list of collaborators for the Day of Sisu 2015 Global, visible at this site and our Finnish sister site. Furthermore, I can personally help you by creating you a sleek Sisu lab invite for the event (if needed < 3)

During and after

  • Tweet #sisu2015 (for events on February 28th) or #HourofSisu (on March 10th) to inspire others and get support for your own journey.
  • Share your stories, pictures and videos at Inspire Sisu (in English) or at Sisun juhlavuosi 2015 (in Finnish). We are really looking forward to hearing from you! With your permission, these stories will be compiled and we will do something amazing with them!

That’s all. No magic, woo woo or circus tricks needed (unless you want). Just people coming together for a good cause. Now, let’s get started!

Yours in Sisu, Emilia



“Sisu is the word that describes Finland.” -The New York Times, January 14, 1940

“Your ‘sisu’ and vigorous entrepreneurial spirit are integral to your success and an inspiration to others.” -US Secretary of State John Kerry, December 6, 2014

“Sisu denotes extraordinary determination, courage and resoluteness in the face of extreme adversity. It relates to an action mindset that enables individuals to take action against very slim odds and reach beyond the observed limitations of their present moment. Sisu begins where grit and perseverance end. As a construct, it is an integral part of the Finnish culture but it is also a universal capacity of humans all across the word.”  -Emilia Lahti, 2013

References and further reading

Lahti, E. (2014). Sisu: Transforming Barriers into Frontiers. TEDxTurku (sisu in 18 minutes)

Lahti, E. (2014). Words Make Our Worlds: Introducing Sisu. (summary on the research).

Lahti, E. (2015). Sisu Lab & personal website.

Forbes (2014). The Sisu Social: Can Finns Teach The World To Hang Tough?

US Department of State (2014): Secretary of State John Kerry on Finns and sisu on Finland’s Independence Day.

Business Insider (2014). Sisu: This Untranslatable Finnish Word Takes Perseverance to a Whole New…

Scientific American (2014). Are You Mentally Tough?

Lahti, E. (2013). Above and beyond perseverance: An exploration of sisu. Master´s thesis: University of Pennsylvania.

Tepora, T. (2012). “Sisu”: The Finnish for “Stiff Upper Lip”?

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