The Not So Big Life – Sarah Susanka

This was oddly the perfect book to read first in 2021! I didn’t expect it to be as thought-provoking or inspiring as it was. A Not So Big Life is about learning to listen to what your heart longs to do and to integrate these passions into your everyday life. The book often mentions that when you engage with what you are truly passionate about, you are automatically present in what you are doing – you are showing up completely in each moment.

I like the way the book discusses architecture and design in that just as we can tear down the interior walls of a house to open up space, The Not So Big Life shows us that we can tear down our fears, assumptions, and conditionings in a way that opens us up to new possibilities so we can start engaging in the things we long to do. I thought this was a pretty interesting way to describe life and learn about the effective ways we can change our conditions, mindset, and perspective by remodeling parts of our routines. One small shift will ripple through the rest of your life.

Here’s to 2021. Happy New Year, everyone!


  1. You need a place and time each day when you are simply by yourself with yourself, with nothing else going on. It is in this place and time that your true identity begins to reveal itself – when you aren’t trying to accomplish anything and you aren’t worrying about how to make things happen or how to make them go differently than they are. It’s in that stillness that your own point of focus becomes apparent.
  2. Let the beauty we love be what we do.
  3. There are two major culprits responsible for our feeling overwhelmed. One is the accumulation of things we think we need; the other is the speed at which we race through our days. We barely recognize these agents of dissatisfaction because they are so much a part of the fabric of our existence, yet both factors significantly influence the way we live. In order to do something about them and to determine whether they are structural, we need to look at them more closely.
  4. Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue.
  5. If you focus simply on what is in front of you to do, everything else will take care of itself.
  6. All you need is your full attention and attitude of receptivity. Everything else will be delivered to your doorstep at exactly the right moment.
  7. Read the signs along the way and engage fully in what moves you.
  8. We’ve been taught to believe since we were very small that the world is something that surrounds us and something we engage in, but also something from which we are unquestionably separate.
  9. Every single one of us perceives our self to be the most important presence in the universe. The world appears to revolve around us. And though we may not think of ourselves as particularly extraordinary, brilliant, successful, or physically attractive, we’ll go to the matt to defend our actions, our views, and our integrity,
  10. Whenever we engage in a project, we perceive that project as being something out there in the world, something outside ourselves. But when our to-do list is running us instead of serving as a management aid, it’s a flag that we’ve lost sight of the inspiration vision behind what we’re doing. Although it seems that the point lies in the successful completion of the project, in fact, the only reason for doing it is to be fully engaged in the experience so that we can learn more about who we truly are.
  11. Change happens when the individual embodies what he or she knows and others see its truth and learn to do their version of the same in their own lives. Whether or not you put it into practice is up to you.
  12. Instead of inhabiting a generic one-size-fits-all house with conventional features, conventional styling, and a conventional layout, what would it be like to live in a house that expresses something more about who you are?
  13. I know with certainty that the only way change the world is to change yourself.
  14. There’s a big difference between efficiency and effectiveness, and right now most of us have lost that distinction. We can’t even find time to assess whether the tools we’re using to be so productive and so efficient are in alignment with our longings for meaning and fulfillment. It’s time to slow down a bit and consider some alternative ways in which to engage in our lives.
  15. If you can provide the basics for yourself and your family, you do in fact have enough.
  16. The opposite of enough is too much. And many of us today are at the point where we have too much already and don’t need more. We don’t need more adrenaline. We don’t need more muscle tone. We don’t need more goods to fill our houses. We don’t need more text messages to make us feel alive. We can keep playing this game until the end, but it’s just not satisfying anymore. Life is not dependent on any of these things. And so we have this vague – and sometimes not so vague – feeling that we are missing out on something huge (FOMO!).
  17. There’s a giant hollowness that we experience occasionally when we stop for a moment. And we’re afraid that if we stop for too long, that hollowness will swallow us whole. But the truth is that that fear of stopping is separating us from real meaningfulness – the objective of our misguided accumulation behavior. We know deep down that there is truly more somewhere. We just don’t know where to find it. And the last place we’re likely to look for it is in the place we most fear – underneath the feeling of hollowness itself.
  18. If we don’t let ourselves slow down and stop the accumulation behavior for a while, we will never see what is hidden below.
  19. Because our ideas about what we can and can’t do and what we like and don’t like seem absolute, we take for granted that these things will never change, and so we feel trapped in our lives and by the things that frustrate us .
  20. You may be starting to realize that there is time available to do whatever it is that you would like to have time for, but right now, it’s invisible because of the way you engage the events and obligations that define it.
  21. The art of finding time has primarily to do with seeing how we obscure our desires by filling the day with not very important stuff that we think is impossible to avoid. That impossibility is an illusion.
  22. It’s necessary to become familiar with the primary conditioning that shaped your personality and who you’ve come to believe you are.
  23. Although we’re usually pretty good at thinking about what we will see of the world outside when we look through the windows, we often forget that most of our time inside is spent looking from one interior place to another. These interior views can be every bit as engaging and inspiring as dramatic panoramas of the great outdoors.
  24. One of the most important parts of any remodeling project is paying attention to what you really want your house to do for you.
  25. If you remember everything else and forget your true work, then you will have done nothing with your life.
  26. We need to recognize the reflectivity inherent in our experience of anything and to learn how to position ourselves – just as we do a window or a skylight – to let in as much of that life experience as possible.
  27. If you think about an event in your life – a scene in your movie – it will be very different when seen in someone else’s movie through their lines, even though the event itself is exactly the same. That’s because every scene of your life is colored by all those conditioned patterns, both cultural and personal, that have led to the creation of the person you believe yourself to be.
  28. You may have wondered sometimes why the storyline of your life always seems to stay essentially the same, no matter what you do. The reason is that you can’t move beyond your conditioned patterning until you’ve really understood it.
  29. If you learn how to look and listen, your everyday experiences are perfectly crafted to wake you up by giving you the clues needed for that process. All the signs are there, but you won’t recognize them if you maintain your belief in the outside world as completely separate from yourself.
  30. The world is not out there, the world is in you.
  31. But if you want to liberate yourself from your same old story, what matters is seeing and understanding your own hidden beliefs.
  32. No one perspective is more valid than another. The perspectives are separate but equal, and collectively they form the totality of what it is possible to experience in human form.
  33. To see with objectivity, we must be able to look at both sides of any polarity without instantly judging what’s right and wrong.
  34. Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
  35. I believe we all want to feel at home in our lives as well, but once again we’re using the wrong tool. We are trying to find more minutes and hours in each day to do the things we value and when in fact the way to feel at home in our lives has almost nothing to do with duration. It’s to be found in the qualities of time rather than the quantities.
  36. But how can you let go and just be in the moment when you have a to-do list that’s a mile and a half long and everything on it has reached a crisis point?
  37. If you don’t take time now, all hell will break loose, because the world is not out there, the world is in you.
  38. Presence is now and now is eternal, without boundary. You have to show, however, to really be here, to experience it.
  39. One of the most difficult skills to develop is the ability to say no when you know that’s what the situation requires. Because we place such a high value on a can-do attitude, we lost sight of what’s actually possible.
  40. “You don’t get paid any more for liking it,” a sad testament to the state in which so much work is performed.
  41. The answer is that change doesn’t happen with a click of a button. It happens by making small, almost insignificant changes in your behavior. And the most important of these changes is taking time for yourself each day.
  42. Now I realized the connection between meditation and detachment from the process of image-making and thought production.
  43. We are striving to make it the way we believe it should be rather than accepting the way it actually is.
  44. Now, this isn’t to say that all life experiences are pleasant. We know that’s not the case. But by not rejecting them as they present themselves, you’ll discover that your experiencing of your own life becomes very, very different. Because you are in the moment, because you are fully engaged in everything that happens, without fixed preconceptions, inflexible preferences, or straining effort, everything contributes to your growth.
  45. We perceive that something is wrong, and we assume that we must fix it. If we were personally in charge of determining what is best for us, we’d be eating the experiential equivalent of ice cream and chocolate cake all day long.
  46. What if we were to see all events as nutritious, whether they made us feel good, bad, or indifferent?
  47. There is no one way in which things need to unfold. All possibilities are alive in the field of consciousness, and we, who are here to experience what unfolds each moment, are being fed by every permutation.
  48. We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
  49. Many of us have become terribly efficient, but we have also become increasingly ineffective. Efficiency is measured by output, whereas effectiveness involves the extent to which something actually works. We lost sight of what we are doing in the first place, making ourselves quite ineffective at our primary task.
  50. There’s no point in showing up if you are not really there.
  51. If all there is, is me, what does this situation reveal about myself? Something to ask yourself when life gets messy.
  52. And if we want to experience that aliveness, we cannot keep waiting for things to change, for everything to be just right.
  53. People set goals all the time, telling themselves that they’ll be able to really live once the goal is achieved, but of course, the goal is rarely, if ever, achieved, so real living forever put off.
  54. And then we wonder why life is passing us by, why we’re always dissatisfied, always in a holding pattern.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.
*I take no credit for any of these points.

Recommend me a book

No horror books, please!!