It’s a Numbers Game

I’m not a numerologist and that isn’t what this is about.

Neither is it about the ‘numbers game’ myth perpetrated about sales – I’ve covered that before.

This is about the ‘numbers’ that keep cropping up in our lives.

Why is it that some numbers – 3, 7, 40 and 90 for example seem to have a higher significance than others?

Why is it that some things seem to demonstrate a particular ratio of numbers – 3:10:87 for example?

This one was famously demonstrated in a study at Harvard University many years ago (and for those who say it was Cambridge University, they are forgetting that Harvard is located in Cambridge Massachusets)

A group of students were asked about goals. 3% had clear written goals, 10% had an idea what their goals were, and the remaining 87% had no goals.

That 3% went on to generate more wealth than all of the others put together.

The same stats crop up in the Network Marketing (MLM) industry. 3% of those who join a network generate a significant income over a short space of time, 10% generate a modest income over a long period and 87% crash and burn making no income at all.

There are many more examples of this particular ratio working, but what about the other numbers?

‘Forty days and forty nights’ – a biblical term obviously, but it’s interesting to note that 40 as a timeframe is used a lot.

When I was going through my PGCE (Postgrad Certificate in Education) we were taught that the maximum timeframe for a ‘lesson’ was 40 minutes as there is a marked drop off in attention after that.

So if you are planning anything ‘educational’, keep it to 40 minutes, or groups of 40 minutes with breaks.

90 is another ‘timeframe’ number.

The life mastery coaching programmes that I use are based on 90 days. And I do most of my development planning based on that timescale – not too short and not too long, but long enough to achieve something relatively significant.

And then of course, follow it up with another 90 days.

This is an old one, it’s been used a lot – used to be called quarterly planning because 90 days is about 3 months, a quarter of a year.

Doing a ‘quarterly review’ of anything and everything you and I are involved in can be really useful. So if you’re not doing it already . . .

7 is often regarded as a ‘magic’ or key number.

We often hear about ‘The seven big mistakes’, ‘7 Steps’ to this that or the other. Lots of hierarchies are based on 7 levels.

And of course, there are 7 days in a week, 7 main chakras, the ‘seven stars in the sky’ (the Great Bear/Plough constellation) – and lots more.

It’s a good number to use when creating a framework or a plan, and of course you and I tend to organize our regular routines into weekly – 7 day – cycles.

However, if you take out the ‘weekend’ you’re left with 5. Five working days in the week.

Moses organised the Israelites into groups of 5 when they were on their journey through the desert. I suspect this may have come from the Egyptians, and many military and other organisations are based on groups or hierarchies of 5 (rather than 7).

It’s a good number to work with if you’re planning a speech: introduction, 3 key points, summary. One item for each finger on your hand so you can remember what to say.

I have known people write keywords on their fingers to help with this!

I just introduced 3 – 3 key points.

Three is really important.

Three represents the ‘Trinity’.

It’s used in a religious sense and that’s where you’re likely to have come across it first, but the ‘trinity’ concept crops up everywhere.

About us, it could be ‘mind, body, spirit’, ‘subconscious, conscious, superconscious’, ‘thought, word and deed’ (or ‘think, say, act’) and so on.

It crops up in design and heraldry – three lions, three orbs, most flags are tricouleur – three colours. Garden designers like to have groups of three of the same plant, sometimes five, but never two or four

And what about ‘before, now and after’, height, length and depth’ (the ‘three dimensions’).

Three is the triangle and you and I should be able to break down pretty much any concept into this because essentially everything works in triangles – or combinations of triangles.

And there’s another number that we don’t often see as a number but do work with all the time. It’s a basis of our thinking.

That number is 2.

Unlike 3 which is descriptive of dynamic relationships or ‘higher realm’ relationships where something is ‘happening’, 2 is a one to one relationship, a binary relationship.

‘On or off’, ‘black or white’, ‘You and I’, male and female, up and down, fast and slow, big and small, hot and cold, left and right, high and low’ and on and on and on . . .

It’s one or the other, but we know that in most cases that isn’t true. There are ‘fifty shades of grey’ between black and white, there’s a lot of difference between high and low, but we tend (because we’ve been trained to) make decisions on this ‘either – or’ basis.

Millions of people have died because of decisions made on the basis of ‘them or us’, and many more have died because of similar binary choices – made by them, or by others on their behalf.

2 is probably the most dangerous number in the set because although it can be productive if two things or people come together in a positive way, it is far more often used in a negative way through our insistence as a race of choosing between apparent ‘alternatives’.

When a decision like this presents itself you and I should think of the triangle – because there is always, always, another way.

There is always ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘what if?’.

What would it take for the ‘answer’ not to be a simple choice between Yes and No?

Another time I’ll talk about what we really mean by numbers anyway and why they don’t actually exist.

But for now, consider how you can use them to organize yourself and make better decisions.

After all it’s only a numbers game . . . or is it?