Regression to the Mean: a Life Lesson from Statistics

In Statistics, there’s an interesting concept called ‘Regression to the Mean’.

Let me explain: let’s say that we have a group of students who are asked to take two tests on two successive days. Naturally, there will be a proportion of students who will score high and a proportion who will score low on the first test. Now, when you administer the second test, you may find that the group of students who scored high on the first test may just end up scoring low on the second test and vice versa.

When all the events are put together, the results of each event will be so varied in each extreme that the overall result will be somewhere near the mean – the middle.

In its simplest form, this concept means that everything eventually evens out; periods of highs will be followed by periods of lows such that overall, everything will balance out.

The reason this particular concept struck me as really interesting because it applies very well to real life.

In our lives, we will inevitably face moments where we think, “Holy shit, I can’t believe I had so many amazing things happen to me all at once!” And we will definitely have moments where we just want to crawl in our beds and form a warm cocoon with the comfiest blankets we own because life just isn’t working out that well for us.

But it’s important to remember during both those times that eventually, everything will balance out again. Unfortunately, we probably may never have a life where we constantly only experience the best things and as unfortunate as that is, we learn two things because of this: firstly, enjoy the good things while they last and secondly, don’t get so caught up in the good things that you think you’re invincible all of a sudden – it’s precisely then that life will turn back on us and pleasantly kick our collective butts.

The upside of everything is that this concept does flicker a small hope in us when the going gets rough and that is that while you may be having a rough time right now, it will not last. We are not destined to be hit with low periods of succession for the rest of our lives. At one point or another, things will start picking up once again and we will find our own brand of happiness.

This is a phenomenon that is quite close to my heart. It is one of the only things that makes me feel better right now about my life. Frankly put, I’m kind of very miserable right now. I’m in a city where I’m not close to a lot of my friends and I find myself having to make a lot of adjustments while I’m here. And I’m kind of stuck here for a while.

So it makes me feel better that while things aren’t turning out to be in my favor right this instant, eventually they will. When we look back at our lives once we’re old and gray and perhaps just a tad bit wiser, we will recognize that yes, everything did balance out in the end.

Because that’s life.

And if nothing else, life is all about balance.

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