Mount Batur. Photo credit Currant H.

The first peer-reviewed research paper on sisu is out!

Quick (and poetry-free) access to the paper below. To engage more, read on.

Lahti, E. (2019). Embodied fortitude: An introduction to the Finnish construct of sisu. International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(1), 61-82. doi:10.5502/ijw.v9i1.672

– – –

Hi there, sisu-esque fellow human in search of a deeper realization of inner strength, continued growth, and transformation. Thank you for being here.

I, too, am fascinated by this mysterious aspect of the human experience that, perhaps, is the most curious and compelling of them all: what is it that allows humans everywhere to overcome the toughest of odds, transform physical and emotional barriers into frontiers and take action to do what perhaps takes the most sisu – courage of the heart – that is, to be true to our inner voice and show up as our real selves in a world, where wearing a mask and distancing ourselves from the hard work of vulnerability and real-ness too often feels like the only sane thing to do.

Yet, despite all the fear, possible ridicule,
to grow, breathe life into dry bones,
transform and reinvent the current dysfunctional system

to turn it into a new, life-giving ecology of interconnectedness,

humans for millennia have explored the outer edges of their zone of comfort,
stepped off the beaten paths, roads and highways of the known and obvious,

into the jungle of mystery, uncertainty, opposition and, adventure, may I say


to sit by the campfire of the primordial, the origin, stepping into the flames
of constant creation, regeneration, and rebirth,
to remember where we came from and know with clarity where we are going,

not be lulled into sleep by comfort, easy answers, and life as usual,
but to show up
in one’s full presence, to be awakened from the dream of passivity and into an existence

of action, sacred inner leadership, and sense of committed responsibility of our ourselves and our shared world, to craft a legacy and not go silently into our final night,


Sisu in its fullness is not just a word, idea, ideal or abstraction to be thrown around,
it is to be felt, experienced, lived, tasted, embraced, acted, and occasionally resented,

it is the fire of determination in the bottom of the belly, life force, primordial power and the core of what gives birth to awe, beauty, truth and valor,


it is me being who I am,
you being who you are,
untethered and bare, just like how we entered this world,

but now, in our adulthood, cloaked in compassionate, uncompromising courage,


The smallest unit of sisu is a breath, heartbeat, a step,
each of those holding the power and potential to transform ourselves and therefore,

the world around us

This work is my ode to hope and that which is remarkable, pure and praiseworthy in every single human, be she a martyr, murderer, mother or an apologetic misfit,

be his dignity and honor sleeping, still, for a while, or awakened into the reality above and beyond the sky, Courage will take everything, but, in return, it will give everything.

Hope you + I,

and is multiplied by benevolent witnessing of each other’s sisu and stories visible when looking under the maks and disguise, into the potentiality of goodness found in each person’s eyes.


A moment in time at Kunyu Mountains in Northern China, February 2019. Photo by Sebastian B.

Attached is a link to the research paper on sisu that, at times, felt like would never get finished. However, just like running across a country, scaling a mountain, or transforming trauma into healing, all it takes, in each given moment, is the energy of one single step, breath or heartbeat to make the progress. These steps, each of them sometimes representing an entire lifetime within a lifetime, a string of deaths, resurrections and rebirths, that, in retrospect, carry the appearance of a precious necklace, with each pearl immeasurably valuable and hard-earned.

Finally, when we have reached the home, harbor, our personal mountain top or a milestone, it all often seems so easy and obvious. We have changed and grown wiser as a result of the process. That is true to me as well. I feel it was a girl, who wrote the first sentences of this paper in 2013, and a woman, no longer habiting an uninitiated, naive psyche, but a warrior and shero of her own life, transformed by the steps of her self-chosen epoch, who wrote the final chapter.

So often, I have failed to see the lotus from the mud, the gem that is buried in a pile of rubble. This work has its origin in a dark night of a soul (mine), but the road has been that of increasing light and lightness, ever-expanding love, and inspiring posttraumatic growth. The was a rainbow at the end of this path and a treasure, in fact, several of them, along the road traveled.

The paper is open-access, as all research should be. I hope it may serve the purpose of help and healing to some and play a useful, inspirational melody within the domain of interdisciplinary research, as we co-create a deeper understanding of human strength and the mysterious [x – fill in the blank] which helps humans everywhere live out their truest high expression.

Sisu is important, very much needed, life-giving,
Love is the master, divine servant and the queen, the force anterior to all.


– – –
Lahti, E. (2019). Embodied fortitude: An introduction to the Finnish construct of sisu. International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(1), 61-82. doi:10.5502/ijw.v9i1.672
Link to the article on the International Journal of Wellbeing website:
Read more about OPEN-ACCESS, supported by International Journal of Wellbeing, and why it is critical to the democratization of knowledge, equality, and justice:

6 thoughts on “The first peer-reviewed research paper on sisu is out!

  1. I have been following you and this topic for quite a while now, as it’s the only answer to all of my questions. Thank you for your research – I cannot wait to dig in and share!


    1. Hi Melissa,

      Thank you for your generously elevating and kind note. I am glad that ‘sisu’ and exploring it within yourself, as it sounds, has given you strength. There is a lot to be hopeful and excited about in the – despite all the trouble. I hope you can forever move from strength to strength and be a beacon of light in your community through the sisu that shines through you <3

      Warmly and with encouragement,


  2. I would like to have permission to post this article on the Facebook page of Finger Lakes Finns in Upstate New York, including the copyrighted study itself. Thank you.


    1. Dearest Maija, thank you so much for your thoughtful note. The research is open-access (thanks to the International Journal of Wellbeing), which means you are free to share it with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

      Wishing you the best sisu. May you have courage and compassion in your heart : )

      In support and gratitude,


  3. Well, to be honest, lately I have been contemplating my ‘exit strategy’ from this life… but after reading this; I now know that I have to re-connect with my inner SISU! I’m originally born in Finland but moved abroad at an early age and currently living in Ireland and got disconnected… So thank you for re-igniting that spark within me now, to enlighten the fire! I will live and spread the SISU way of life :-) Thank you and sending you lot’s of love!! x


  4. I am an American with 100 percent Finnish roots…
    tracing my heritage in the same area of Finland back to 1520. My parents were the first generation of American Finns.
    All my life I was aware of the concept of sisu,
    and encouraged to tap into it for personal strength against all odds. So many times it has pushed me into going beyond, facing into the wind, never giving up, striving for excellence, rising above pain and difficulty of all sorts.
    Thank you for your careful, thoughtful writing on this amazing resource.


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