Principle #3c – Step size

Principle #3c – Step size. Smaller increments of attainment are more easily and more quickly achieved than larger ones. Intuitively, one might be inclined to find fault with this principle by citing the very large amount of time and effort required for someone working at an expert level to refine their performance—for example, the hours and hours and hours of practice that go into shaving a mere few hundredths of a second off a race time or making very subtle changes in posture to perfect one’s form in gymnastics or dance. These examples seem to be in direct contradiction to the principle as stated. In fact, it can easily be argued that most of the work that goes into training for world champion athletes, expert craftsmen, or top notch professionals, is required at the high end of performance in which the least amount of gain is realized. The misunderstanding here, however, is in regards to the metric of attainment. Step size of attainment is not a measure of the amount of time taken off the clock, or the magnitude of change in effective displacement toward refinement of a physical movement or posture. It isn’t the change in degree of precision in communication, execution of a medical procedure, or preparation of a technical specification. To the contrary, step size of attainment is a measure of effort. It’s not the size of the resulting change, but rather, the amount of effort required to make it happen.[1]


[1] The amount of effort required is relative to what has previously been learned (Principle #3d) and is also a function of the degree of difficulty an individual might experience in achieving a particular learning target due to physical, psychological, or emotional traits and conditions, as well as previously established habits of engagement or aversion (Principle #6).

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