Why Understanding Batting Averages Is Important

How realistic are your expectations that define success?
Published on June 16, 2010 by Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D. in Don’t Delay

I often meet people struggling with change in their lives, particularly around procrastinating less, and they are discouraged. They feel that they fail more often than they succeed. The thing is, this might still define success, even excellence. It does in baseball.

Baseball statistics are exceedingly complex. A cult following has evolved around them. However, one of the simplest formulas is the batting average. It’s the number of hits divided by the number of times at bat.

For those people who are not familiar with batting averages, it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that the very best batters in the league “strike out” (fail to get to at least first base) 7 out of 10 times at bat. A season average higher than .300 is excellent in modern baseball (Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox hit .406 in 1941, but we don’t see those kinds of performances over a whole season any longer).

What this means is that we have to think carefully about what it means to succeed. We have some pretty unrealistic expectations of ourselves when it comes to self-change projects, for example.Why do we expect to succeed more often than we fail, particularly when we’re changing a pattern of behavior in our lives?

Perhaps there’s a lesson from baseball. If we can succeed even 3 times out of 10 attempts, we may be doing an excellent job. In fact, I think that this sort of success will pave the way to long-term personal change, because the effort is being made. To stick with the metaphor, you keep stepping up to the plate. You don’t quit.

I hope just changing your perspective a little will help get you out of your own “slumps” as they may arise. Life throws a pretty mean curve ball. In addition, just as in baseball, actually scoring a run (as opposed to getting a hit) depends on your other team members’ batting skills as well.

Do your best, remember that excellence is far from a perfect score, and nurture the interdependence on your own team. This is a recipe for success in baseball and everyday life.



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