With the Season of our Freedom approaching, it’s a good time to remember that we have everything we need packed inside of us. We can leap over our hurdles and reach our goals—all we need to do is take that inner potential that G‑d gives us and expand it into all its possibilities.

That’s the highly motivating and inspirational message of Jonah Simcha Chaim Muskat-Brown’s latest book, Expanding Potential: Journeying Beyond Who We Think We Are. It doesn’t just speak about that message in general terms. The Canadian educator and social worker takes readers on a journey through the Jewish calendar, exploring the secrets of each Jewish holiday as a tool for growth, rooted in a wealth of detail from a myriad of Chassidic sources.

In a conversation with Chabad.org, Muskat-Brown discusses his book, and its practical and personal insights, giving a small taste of the fascinating guidance found within its pages.

Q: Please describe the premise of your book and why it’s important for people to do?

A: I’ve titled my book Expanding Potential because, as awesome as our inherent potentials are, life is about continually expanding them. We need to expand what and how we think about ourselves and the world around us, journeying deeper and deeper into the authentic core of who we are. In 2016, I published a short, psycho-spiritual book exploring the interplay between our human potential and many of the significant festivals in our calendar (titled Unfolding Potential). Since then, I’ve taken what I’ve discovered—and continue uncovering—about myself, and pushed beyond them and expanded what I initially published. And we all need to be doing the same as we journey through life—continually digging deeper and expanding beyond who we understand ourselves to be right now and what we believe our realities to be.

Q: The chapters of your book are arranged around the Jewish calendar. Can you explain how that guides us beyond our personal limitations?

A: The holy Baal Shem Tov views life as a spiral staircase through which we can rise higher each year. Unlike a linear timeline comprising a distinct beginning and end, each point in our spiral through time has the same energy that existed on that day’s first occurrence in history. For example, each week on Shabbat, we’re able to re-experience the serenity and sanctity that permeated the very first Shabbat in history when G‑d first created the world; on Passover, we’re able to tap into the unique energy of freedom that G‑d first brought into reality during the season of our Exodus from Egypt. And so, too, with each Jewish holiday we celebrate.

I chose to structure Expanding Potential according to the Jewish calendar and our yearly Yom Tov (holiday) cycle as a way for us to grow and expand ourselves over time, unearthing unknown potentials and inner strengths and abilities we never realized we had in small measures as the year progresses. The beauty of the year as a spiral staircase is that, if we so wish—though we are one circuit more elevated this year than last—we can tap into that majestic splendor and re-experience (and for some, experience for the first time) those miracles and points of potential in our lives today. Instead of waiting for a new year to arrive to reconnect with ourselves or recommit to a new (or continued) goal, each Yom Tov acts as a resource and springboard for actualizing more of who we truthfully are at several intervals throughout a given year.

Q: Is there one holiday you personally connect with the most?

A: While every Jewish holiday has so much to offer us, in many ways, Passover continues to be my favorite. Passover is about freedom, both in the physical and metaphysical sense of the word. It’s about breaking free from any perceived personal limitations that hold us back from living the most authentic versions of ourselves in our imminent present. We celebrate that as low as we think we might be, in any instant, we can rise to the highest heights—and, more times than we’d probably like to admit, it’s all in our capability.

Pesach also reminds us that growth isn’t easy, nor does it occur overnight; it reminds us to celebrate the mini-moments of success we achieve along that journey, and to be kind to ourselves and to each other during the ups and downs of the unfolding adventure that lies ahead. Even though we can’t always clearly see our Promised Land in front of us, Passover is the choice to begin that long walk to freedom from the onset.

Q: At the end of each chapter, you have a section called “Purposeful Pauses” with questions for readers to ask themselves. What is the goal of this section?

A: A lot of people seem to be into quick fixes these days: health, mental wellness, peace, fitness—really anything. I see this a lot in education as well, especially with the ever-increasing availability of new technology and apps that enable us to get jobs done in the fastest and cheapest way possible. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for efficiency. But what seems to be trending is that few people are willing to do “the work.” I try to emphasize this idea throughout my book: growth takes time. Actually, almost anything meaningful in life takes time and persistent effort. We need to learn how to slow down so that we can digest what we’re taking in, and then use it productively and purposefully.

I think this is one of the beautiful aspects of Shabbat. Shabbat forces us to disconnect so that we can ultimately reconnect in healthy ways. Any sports coach will tell you that rest time is as important, if not more important, than training time. As I mention in my chapter about Tu B'Shevat, there’s really no such thing as an “off-season” in the game of life. Our moments of rest and disconnection are equally as important to our progress and advancements as are our actual moments of doing.

And because my book is so much about personal growth, I wanted to drive home the idea that it’s not just about reading it cover-to-cover to “get the job done.” Instead, it’s about processing the content and growing from it in personal and meaningful ways over time. The Purposeful Pauses are there to help us intentionally press pause and reflect on what we read. Maybe we agree with what the chapter speaks about or maybe we don’t, but if we don’t stop to digest it, we really do miss out on key opportunities to build our self-awareness and to become anything greater than we currently understand ourselves and our life to be.

“Expanding Potential: Journeying Beyond Who We Think We Are” can be purchased online and at Jewish bookstores.