This post presents a brief elaboration on the first of seven principles of learning:
Principle #1 – Potential. Humans are endowed with an inherent potential for increase in capacity, the establishment of habit, and the definition of being. This is the first principle of learning, upon which all others are predicated.
That every person has capacity is a self-evident reality. As used here, capacity refers to one’s ability to do, to think, to believe, and to feel. Doing and thinking are both ways of acting. To act by doing is to interact with the external world. To act by thinking is to interact with the internal workings of one’s mind. Thus, capacity to act refers to the extent of one’s ability to interact with both the shared external and the private internal worlds.
Similarly, capacity to believe is the extent of one’s ability to hope, to dream, or to have faith. Belief determines the self-prescribed bounding limits of one’s actions.
Capacity to feel is the extent of one’s ability to connect with people, events, places, or things. Feeling determines both the depth and richness of one’s experiences.
It is the primordial function of human life, to extend the capacity and establish the habits of the individual, whether by his or her own intention, the intention of another, or by happenstance. Figure 1 depicts this potential for increase, with the stick figure in the lower left representing one’s current state, and the stick figure in the upper right representing some potential state.
Except in very rare and unusual circumstances, a person’s capacity to act, to believe, and to feel has potential for increase. Capacity can increase both in range and degree (Figure 2). An increase in range is a horizontal expansion that provides for greater flexibility or broader application. An increase in degree is a vertical expansion that brings greater accuracy, efficiency, depth, or intensity. An increase in range enables a person to do more; to think about more; to believe in more; and to feel, or emotionally respond, to more. An increase in degree enables a person to do it better, to think more effectively or more profoundly, to believe with greater endurance, and to feel more deeply.
Habits are automated patterns of doing, thinking, believing, and feeling. Just as capacity can be increased through the process of learning, so too can habits be established; and they can be changed.
Not only does the human potential allow for increase in capacity and establishment of habit, but even the very being of a person can change. As used here, being refers one’s character, nature, and perpetual desire.
Thus, learning is the process by which a stable and enduring increase in capacity, the establishment of habit, and the definition of one’s being, is produced.