In statistics, regression toward (or to) the mean is the phenomenon that if a variable is extreme on its first measurement, it will tend to be closer to the average on its second measurement—and, paradoxically, if it is extreme on its second measurement, it will tend to have been closer to the average on its first. When interpreting data, regression toward the mean must be considered. Historically, what is now called regression toward the mean has also been called reversion to the mean and reversion to mediocrity.
But I am not here to bore you with statistics.
What is that you said? “Too late”??
My sincere apologies.
You may be asking yourself why I am bringing such a subject up on a health and fitness blog.
Well, I do have a reason …. let’s see if we can find it.
I mentioned on the show last night a conversation I had recently with my coach regarding the subconscious mind and how we undermine our efforts by assigning roles to ourselves. The belief in who we are, what we are capable of, what we can and cannot do, can be a strong motivator and predictor in who and what we become. If you have parents who constantly hounded you about being worthless, no good, “bound for prison”, often results in an adult who actually turns out the exact way that was “predicted”. Been told you were somehow “less than” your whole life results in that belief within you, no matter how well you try to hide it. The inner voice, the voice of your father, mother, teachers, spiritual leader, is in your head and will remain there.
The conversation revolved around my use of the title “Fat Slow Triathlete” and the podcast I am on called “Back of Pack Endurance” and how, subconsciously, I may be regressing in order to meet those title expectations.
Oh come on, John … you don’t really believe that do you??
I didn’t … but the more I think about it I start to wonder if there is some truth to it. Have I sabotaged my efforts by becoming a “spokesperson” or “champion” of the back of the pack race participant? My conscious mind tells me I have not, because I am trying to be better during training sessions.
But maybe the subconscious mind is stronger than that?
“The way to get rid of darkness is with light; the way to overcome cold is with heat; the way to overcome the negative thought is to substitute the good thought. Affirm the good, and the bad will vanish.” ― Joseph Murphy, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
The power of positive thought can be very strong, but some of us … and I mean “me”, have a hard time with this. I am not sure why. I’d like to say that it is because I am a “realist”. I see things for what they are in the real world. This is why when someone says to me “oh, don’t worry about that run, you’re going to do great!” and I know that I have not had a good training run, and that everything over 5 miles starts to hurt my feet, I cannot buy into that sentiment, and it comes across like I am being negative when in my head I am not. I am just being realistic.
But the whole notion of having a “bad day” is not real. There is no such thing as a “bad day”. A bad day only exists in our interpretation of reality, which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Peter J. Bentley, PhD, author of “Why Sh*t Happens: The Science of a Really Bad Day”, wrote:
Yes, and it’s our fault, I’m afraid! The statistics show that people who believe in bad luck will have more accidents on Friday the 13th. Those who have a negative attitude are more likely to endow normal little mishaps with some mystical significance. Some psychologists even suggest that it’s a way of subconsciously avoiding responsibility for our actions. “It was Friday 13th, so I was bound to stick my fingers with superglue” or “Accidents happen in threes, so after the first mishap the next two were inevitable.” Of course it’s nonsense.
So, is my subconscious ruining my races? Am I fulfilling some prophecy that I have set in motion by my company name and the groups I align with?
I really don’t think it is that simple.
Our brain wants to simplify, and normally is very useful and beneficial in this way. Our brains develop abstract representations of complex ideas that allow us to connect the represented ideas with other ideas. Simplification clears our minds, freeing our brains to draw additional connections and conclusions. But what happens when we simplify experiences with the wrong symbolic conclusion? This is what happens when we conclude that we are having a bad day. We start to assign blame for our day on thing outside of our control. In this way, we avoid analyzing the real reasons things happened as they did. It’s just easier to think “it’s just a bad day”. The obvious downside is that once you accept the convenient conclusion that the entire day is going to be bad, it will cause the rest of your day to go bad.
I’m not exactly saying you should discard all belief in the notion of luck. In fact, a recent study published in Psychology Today indicates that people who believe in luck are in fact luckier and happier throughout their lives than those who don’t. Perhaps we should believe in good luck, but not bad luck, if such a thing is possible. ~ LifeHacker.com
So when I start a race full of the belief that I will have a good one, and then the first sign of trouble happens (a slow swim, bike issue, feet hurting on the run) and immediately start thinking to myself “it’s OK, just race your race. You’re a “back of packer”. It’s OK to be last”, am I creating a self sabotage moment? Should I not go into a “I am not going to let that awful swim create a bad race for me … I am leaving everything I have on the course” mind-set?
Because I don’t …
Last Saturday as I entered the run leg of the race a young man was coming in from the run and was throwing up as he ran. He didn’t stop. He kept vomiting as he ran, and at a good pace too. My reaction?
He is pushing too hard.
But is he? he probably took too much water at the aid station, maybe was going a bit faster than his planned pace, but he was finishing.
So this is what has been going through my head recently.
Thanks for listening.
“You grow old when you lose interest in life, when you cease to dream, to hunger after new truths, and to search for new worlds to conquer. When your mind is open to new ideas, new interests, and when you raise the curtain and let in the sunshine and inspiration of new truths of life and the universe, you will be young and vital.” ― Joseph Murphy, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind