How To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed Giving The World What It Wants From You

If we can find a greater harmonious balance (and oneness) between what the world wants from us and who we are and what we want at our core, that harmony will generate a great deal more joy, fulfillment and reward.

Whenever something happens to me that rocks my world in a challenging way, I can’t wait to get to the other side of it and figure out why I responded the way I did. I want to learn from my negative responses to help myself and others achieve greater self-awareness and success.

Several weeks ago, something happened that offered that opportunity. While sipping wine and talking to a friend after rehearsal of the singing group I’m in, I was casually sharing about several large initiatives I had undertaken that were now over. I shared that both were highly transformative and thrilling experiences for me and for the other individuals involved, and I was so glad to have facilitated these projects and been an active participant in them. But I also shared that the degree of prep work for these experiences (involving months of administration) was massive and took a toll on me.

My friend asked me, “Would you do these projects again?” I hesitated for a long while, then responded, “I’m not sure what I want to do, but if I did them again, I’d need to approach them differently.”


He scrunched up his face in funny, curious way, and then offered a pivotal question that struck a deep chord and, truthfully, made me angry to hear it. 

He asked, “Well, what does the world want you to do?”

I was taken aback by that, and asked him what he meant, and he talked a bit about how most of us see ourselves as separate from the world, but looking at our life experience from a non-duality perspective is helpful. (Here’s an interesting talk given by Peter Russell on Non-Duality and the Mystery of Consciousness.)

I got annoyed again, and I thought three things to myself:

  1. I’m already giving as much of myself as I can to the world, and I’m exhausted! What more does the world want from me? 
  2. Why is he asking me this? What does he know about my life and situation that would prompt him to ask me that?
  3. Finally, why didn’t he ask this question instead: “What do YOU want from the world?” I could answer that one really easily!


Outwardly, I shared a bit of that, but not the whole story, and replied that I’d have to really think long and hard about his question, and what the true answer is. And I did.

Throughout the next week I turned that question over and over analyzed best I could why it got me so irritated. I realized that it’s not a simple question for me, first, because of all the projections I make–about what “I” am, what I think people want from me, and what I “should” do versus what I truly “want” to do. And secondly, because of the baggage I still carry around from my childhood about the pressure I feel of what is needed and expected of me that sometimes feels exhausting and overwhelming (I am a recovering perfectionist overfunctioner, after all).

The more I thought about it, I began to have some big realizations about what I want and what the world wants from me, and it created some immediate, helpful shifts in how I’m working and viewing myself and also how I’m running my business.

The realizations were:

  1. Even at my age and even after all the work I’ve done to develop strong boundaries, I am still being bogged down by the “shoulds” versus what I want to do. I’m still defining myself in certain ways that are not helpful.
  2. I flit around trying to do way too much rather than honing my focus to ensure I’m leveraging my talents and passions in directions that make me feel joyful and aligned.
  3. I still find it hard to say “no” to others (even strangers) and to prioritize my own needs, wants and values over pressures from others.
  4. The more I put myself last, the more the world will too.


Once I had these revelations, I began talking to my clients and course members about them, and there was a great deal of resonance with these challenges. I then made some changes in the way I’m approaching decision-making, project execution, investment in myself, program development, time to be quiet and to rest and restore, time for fun, and more. And it’s all helping me feel that I can give the world what it wants from me while also getting what I need and want in return, and not feeling that these two things are so separate. 

 I realized more than ever that it’s not wrong to want something in return from the world. Getting a solid return on your (time, energy, focus and financial) investment is a good and positive thing, not something to be ashamed that we want and need.


In exploring this process more, I’ve found there are three actions we can engage in today that will help us feel more at one and joyful with who we are, what we can give, and what we want:

#1: Identify three activities that exhaust and drain you that you no longer want to engage in, and find a way to move away from these activities.

Whether that’s stepping down from that board role that isn’t rewarding or fruitful, or finally shifting the delegation of domestic chores so it’s more equal in your home, or saying “no more” to your friend who continually takes advantage of you and your time, figure out where you’re feeling beleaguered and disrespected—where you behaving in a way that is not really you at your core—and do something to change it.


#2: Get to the root of why you give too much and can’t say “no.” How old is that feeling?

I’ve seen in coaching and therapy work that if there’s a root cause of a behavior that’s deeply embedded through past programming such as what you were trained to do and be as a child in order to be loved, then no amount of “insight” will help you change those behaviors. It’s empowered action—and a very different kind of action than what you typically engage in—that’s required to shift your life experience. 

Now’s the time to figure out why you can’t say “no” to things you don’t want to do or tolerate. Who made you feel that you had to oblige everyone’s wishes, that you had to be pleasing, accommodating, agreeable and malleable in order to be loved or accepted? Can you start shedding that programming and those “rules” and begin to do more of what you truly want to engage in?

In Tony Robbin’s documentary “I Am Not Your Guru,” he asks the question:

Who did you crave love most from as a child and who did you have to be to get it?

Answer that question and you’ll have some new insights as to why you continue to engage with others and the world the way you do.


#3: Start finding new ways to make use of the natural, exciting talents and gifts you love to use, and move away from skills you hate to employ.

Years ago in my unhappy corporate roles, I developed some strong skills in tasks and areas I didn’t enjoy. I was good at that work, but often dreaded and even hated what I was doing. I learned later that you can do great work that pleases your boss, but feel very disconnected from it and resentful because it’s hard, boring or tedious for you and the work is not who you are or what you want to engage in.

Begin to recognize those skills that you no longer want to spend your time using. Then identify the natural, easy-to-use skills and talents within you that are joyful and even thrilling, and bring those forward. Be more of who you really are in your work so your endeavors feel more fluid and rewarding, rather than a chore you regret every minute of the day.

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If we can find a greater harmonious balance (and oneness) between what the world wants from us and who we are and what we want at our core, that harmony will generate a great deal more joy, fulfillment and reward.


To learn more about what you want to do in the world and what’s in the way, take Kathy Caprino’s Career Path Self-Assessment and  Power Gap Survey, and tune into her weekly Finding Brave podcast.

Originally published at Forbes