The Power of Your Potential

How to Break Through Your Limits


By John C. Maxwell

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Learn how to maximize your potential in minimal time with this compact how-to book derived from No Limits by #1 New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell.

Many of us hold ourselves back because we firmly believe our abilities are finite. But what if our supposed limitations are just an illusion?

In The Power of Your Potential John Maxwell identifies and examines the seventeen key capacities each of us possesses. Some we are born with, such as how we think or how we naturally relate to other people. The rest are choices, often unconscious, including our attitude or personal disciplines. All are expandable.

Maxwell gives clear and actionable advice on what we can do to improve in each of these areas. From learning to manage your emotions and increase your energy, to conquering procrastination and becoming more comfortable with taking risks, you will surpass your own expectations to become a better you than you ever thought possible.



Are You Aware of Your Full Potential?

If you’re like most people, I bet you’d like more out of life than you are currently experiencing. Maybe you’re not succeeding in all the ways you desire to in life. Perhaps you’re less than fully satisfied with your progress. Are you getting done all that you want to do? Or do you want to see more, do more, be more?

What’s getting in your way? What’s limiting you? Do you know? If you don’t know what’s limiting you, how will you remove it?

You’ve probably heard the saying “If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always gotten.” I want to help you do something new—and get somewhere new. As we embark on this journey, I want to give you two thoughts:

1. Change doesn’t always have to be drastic to be effective.

2. Change is necessary for you to reach your potential.

As you read through this book, be on the lookout for where you need to change your focus to become more aware of your potential. In part 1, on ability, you will be asked to work on some things that may not be natural strengths. You will find that difficult. Growth in skill areas, if they are not natural, is often slow and small. That’s OK. Every little bit of positive change helps. However, when you get to part 2, which is about choices, you will find it to be easier. In matters of choice, changes can be achieved much more quickly. All of these changes, whether difficult or easy, need to be made if you desire to reach your full potential.

I want to help you expand your thinking and your ability. I want you to accept the challenge of releasing the power of your potential and changing your life. Are you willing to do that? If so, the process begins with awareness, with learning…

1. Your Potential Isn’t Set

Have you given much thought to your potential? Most people think theirs is set. We hear one person identified as “high capacity” and another as “low capacity,” and we just accept it. What’s your capacity? Have you defined it as high, low, or average? Do you think it’s set? Maybe you haven’t put a label on it, but you’ve probably settled into a level of achievement that you believe is what’s possible for you.

That’s a problem.

Too many people hear the word capacity and assume it’s a limitation. They assume their capacity is set—especially if they’re beyond a certain age. People give up on the idea that their capacity or their potential can grow. All they do is try to manage whatever they think they’ve got. That’s too confining. Instead, we need to define our world and ourselves in terms of our possibilities.

While I believe 100 percent that people can grow, change their capacity, and increase their potential, I also acknowledge that all of us have caps on our capacity. Some caps are fixed, but most are not. We can’t allow these unfixed caps to keep our lives from expanding. We can’t let caps define our potential. We need to look beyond the caps and see our true potential.

2. You Can Become Aware of the Possibilities That Can Make You Better

All lasting growth requires awareness. Unfortunately, if you lack awareness, then you don’t know that you are unaware. It’s a blind spot. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you can’t see that you are unable to see. That’s a catch-22.

Self-awareness is a powerful skill. It enables you to see yourself clearly. It informs your decisions and helps you to weigh opportunities. It allows you to test your limits. It empowers you to understand other people. It makes partnerships with others stronger. It allows you to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. It opens the door to greater potential.

Here are some things to think about as you work to become more aware of your possibilities:


We naturally tend to see things as we have always seen them. If we want to increase our potential, we must see differently. We need to be willing to look at ourselves and our world in new ways. We need to pay attention and look for what we need to know.


What stops people from reaching their potential often isn’t lack of desire but lack of awareness. Unfortunately, people don’t become self-aware accidentally. On top of that, factors such as excuses, success fantasies that are ungrounded in reality, talking without listening to others, unresolved negative emotions, habitual self-distraction, absence of personal reflection, and unwillingness to pay the price to gain experience all work against us and prevent us from developing greater self-awareness.

Most people who have developed self-awareness have had to battle one or more of these factors to get where they are. They’ve had to work very hard. It takes desire to make self-awareness discoveries. It takes discipline to look at yourself and reflect on your experiences. It takes maturity to ask others to help you with your blind spots.

Becoming self-aware also requires help from other people who can see you more clearly than you can see yourself. You need to find someone—a trusted friend, colleague, mentor, or family member—who can help you, direct you, and provide you with repeated honest feedback.


As you discover things about yourself, you must try to discern where to focus your attention. You can’t do everything, so focus on your strengths. When we focus on our weaknesses, the best we can do is work our way up to average. Nobody pays for that. No successful person hires someone to do a merely adequate job. Successful people desire excellence. Excellence comes from focusing on your strengths. Whatever you do well, try to do it better. That’s your greatest pathway forward to increased potential.


In my book Intentional Living, I discuss the major difference between good intentions and intentional living. The former may make a person feel good, but it doesn’t actually do anything positive for that person or for others. The key is action. We get results only when we take what we’ve learned and put it into action.

You need to become aware that you are currently living below your potential if you’re going to do anything to improve. Even if you’ve been a highly productive and successful person, you can improve. You can increase your potential. You have more in you that you have never tapped. And there is a path forward to greater potential if you are willing to take it.

3. You Can Remove the Caps from Your Capacity

The next step in increasing your potential involves removing the caps that are holding you back. We often believe that some of the restrictions we experienced earlier in life are permanent, or we’ve been told we have limitations that we actually don’t possess, and these things keep us from taking the journey in life that we long for. These are the chains we need to break.

Awareness changes everything. As soon as we become aware that some of our “limitations” are artificial, we can begin to overcome them. We can blow off these caps on our capacity, which opens the way for growth. I’ll talk more about this later.

4. You Can Develop the Potential You Already Possess

Everyone has potential based on their natural talents. Some areas of potential require very specific abilities, such as those found in symphony musicians, professional athletes, and great artists. Other areas are more general in nature and rely on multiple skill sets. In part 1 of this book, I’ll identify and examine seven of those areas, and I’ll teach you how to maximize the talent you have so that you can increase your potential in each of these areas.

5. You Can Make Choices That Maximize Your Possibilities

You also have other areas of greater potential that rely more on your choices. While it’s true that talent is still a factor, it is less important in these areas. I want to help you identify the choices you can make to increase your potential. In part 2, I’ll teach you how to do that. And when you pair the development of your potential with the maximization of your choices, you start to develop personal momentum. Momentum is not the result of one push. It is the result of many continual pushes over time.

How Far Can You Go?

Maybe as you start this journey you should tell yourself that you’re at only 40 percent of your potential. What would happen if you assumed that you had at least 60 percent more capacity than you ever believed? There’s more in you that you’ve never tapped. What if it’s not 60 percent? What if it’s only 40, or 25, or even 10 percent? Wouldn’t that still change your life? Believing there’s more and working to tap into it could be a first step in reimagining your potential and embracing a no-limits life.

Caps You Can’t Remove

I believe you can live a life with no limits, that you can go further than you believe and can do more than you’ve ever dreamed. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t possess limitations. We all do. Some caps cannot be removed.

Think about some of the caps in your life that you need to acknowledge and accept:

Birth caps: You had no control over where or when you were born, nor can you go back in time and change these things. You don’t get to choose your parents, birth order, siblings, or upbringing. Good or bad, you have to live with these circumstances and make the best of them. You cannot change your genetic makeup, your race, your bone structure, or your height.

Life caps: There are many things that happen to us in our lives that we cannot control. We suffer accidents or illnesses. We lose people we love. We discover that we don’t have the talent or ability to fulfill a dream. I call these “life caps.” We all have life-cap stories, some big, some small. We have our nicks and dents. Part of the process of fulfilling your purpose is becoming aware of the things you can’t change that limit you, so that you can direct your attention toward the things you can change to increase your capacity.

Caps You Can Remove

Too many people who aren’t as successful, productive, and fulfilled as they would like to be mistakenly think they’ve worked through their issues, they’ve reached their capacity, and there are no new mountains they can climb. They settle. And they get comfortable.

Let me tell you: you’re not even close to your potential. You haven’t come close to reaching your limits. If you’re willing to believe you have more potential and to work at making the most of it, you’ll be amazed by the gains you can make. To get started, you need to remove the two main types of caps people have on their lives.

Caps That Others Put on Us

The first type of limitation comes from the caps that others put on us. People have put caps on you. You’re not even aware of some of them. But you don’t have to let others’ lack of belief define you. Be unwilling to surrender your potential to someone else. Be unwilling to allow others to put caps on you and define your potential. You’ve fought too hard to get where you are to let others control where you are going. Be open to the possibilities that are in you!

Caps We Put on Ourselves

Perhaps the caps that limit us most are the ones we put on ourselves. But we don’t have to leave them in place. We don’t have to be limited by them forever. I think back to some of the caps I put on myself:


When I started in my career, I was a people pleaser. I wanted to be everybody’s favorite, and I didn’t like rocking the boat. That’s not a good mind-set if you want to be a leader. I had to learn how to remove that cap. I had to be willing to do what was right or what was best for the organization, even if it made people unhappy or I received criticism.


Too many people simply accept whatever environment they’re born into. They think it’s normal, and they start to believe they don’t have any other choices in life. When that happens, they’ve created a self-imposed cap on their life. I grew up in a small town in a very conservative environment, where leadership wasn’t valued or taught. I wanted to make a difference, and when I began to learn about leadership, I realized that I needed to move from that environment if I wanted to keep growing, learning, and expanding my potential.


When I was a senior in college and was getting ready to become a pastor, I wanted to someday lead a church of five hundred people. To me that was a bold goal, because a church of five hundred was the largest I’d ever seen or heard of. About two years out of college, I came across a book by Elmer Towns called The Ten Largest Sunday Schools and What Makes Them Grow. I remember reading the first chapter and thinking, Wait. This church has more than five hundred people in it. I didn’t even know such a thing existed! The same was true of the next church in the book, and the next. Each of the ten churches in the book had more than five hundred people in it. The book started to change the way I thought. I suddenly had models of growth beyond anything I’d ever seen.

What’s Holding You Back?

I bet you want to achieve more. And you probably love the idea of increasing your potential. But do you still have doubts? If you wanted to, you could find plenty of reasons not to strive for your potential. Maintaining the status quo is easier. But that shouldn’t stop you. Trying to build your life without removing your limitations and increasing your potential is like building a car in a small shed and being unwilling to knock out the wall to get the car out on the road. Remove the limitations, and the world is open to you.

You have great value. You have great potential. You have the ability to achieve greater significance in your life. It starts with developing self-awareness. More specifically, you need to become aware of the caps of your life and recognize which caps you can’t remove and which ones you can.

Once you know what caps you can remove, I want to show you how to remove them. I want you to become more successful and significant. I’d like to help you reach your potential and achieve your dream. You may be thinking, You don’t even know me! That’s true. I don’t know the specifics of your story. But I know that as a human being, you have huge potential. Every person does, so that means you do. You specifically.

You may be facing challenges. Others may not believe in you. You may have a tough past. That doesn’t take away what you can do or who you can become. The way your life has gone up to now? It doesn’t matter. I want to help you believe in yourself and give you a path forward to increasing all of the potential you have.

Write a new story with your life. Hold on to hope as you turn the page, and let’s get ready to get to work.

Awareness Questions

1. What is your strategy for developing greater self-awareness? Who will you enlist to help you learn, change, and grow?

2. What are the birth and life caps that you cannot change? List them.


On Sale
May 1, 2018
Page Count
192 pages
Center Street

John C. Maxwell

About the Author

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 24 million books in fifty languages. Often called America’s #1 leadership authority, Maxwell was identified as the most popular leadership expert in the world by Inc. magazine in 2014, and he has been voted the top leadership professional six years in a row on He is the founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, and EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 180 countries. Each year Maxwell speaks to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders.

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