What is a mean? We use it as a measure of centre of a set of numbers and find it by adding them all together and dividing it by the amount. What do we get from it? Well, as a measure of centre, it tells us roughly what value most participants received. by. Simply put, it is the middle.

We often think of averages and means as a measure across a group of people performing the same task. In tests, for example, the average tells us what roughly what the middle score was in the exam (actually the median, I know, but we are keeping this simple), and what we can do with that piece of information is compare ourselves against others. In sports, we look at statistics in the same way; if a player is scoring above the average number of points, we consider them favourably when compared to their competitors.

This is all well and good but if we want to understand our own performance better, what good does comparing our results to an average set by other people achieve?

When we receive back our exams, we are always curious to know how other students went. We hope that we did a good job but are more concerned about how others performed. We ask for the average mark as a method of comparison. We hide our own marks to protect ourselves from the opinions of other people. We always concern ourselves with others in order to make ourselves feel better but the only mark we need to concern ourselves with is our own.

It is important to understand that when we identify ourselves as being our only competition, we can improve at a much reliable rate. Our own mean is the only measure which will tell us whether we have improved or not. It is always possible that over two exams, we could score lower but improve relative to the average, if everyone else performed much worse than we did. As a result, we could be completely satisfied with a poorer performance however, that does not foster improvement.

In order to improve, we must first take notice and understand our own expectations. What did I expect to get in this test? Does my result reflect that? Is this how I normally perform? It is a difficult and often demoralising process but without it, we cannot measure our performance and without measurement, there is no management. When we understand our own expectations and the results, we can begin to improve.