Have you ever noticed that a lot of things come in three’s?
I find there is something magical, magnetic & mystical about the number Three! If one is chance, two is coincidence, three is a pattern. As the french say, ‘jamais deux sans trois‘. And the ancient Romans valued the ‘Power of Three’ – the Latin saying, ‘Omne trium perfectum’ literally means ‘everything that comes in three’s is perfect’.
Be it in Communication, Influence and Learning we can leverage on the Power of Three for maximum impact. As an author, coach and leader, I use the Power of Three to think, organize and present ideas, initiatives and outcomes.
The ‘Power of Three’ in our lives
Is it a coincidence that Earth is the third planet of our solar system? Probably. Our reality is often shaped by three factors which provide a balanced, complete and holistic view of things. Allow me to share a few concepts, examples and insights:
- As human beings, Time regulates our mortal existence from birth to death. As such, we conceptualize Time in three tenses – Past, Present, Future. While time is a construct, we simplify it into these three tenses to give meaning to our lives.
- As conscious beings, we live life as the confluence of three elements – Experience, Imagination and Memory – Memories from our past, Experience in the present, Imagination about the future. This gives us a sense of purpose, identity & direction.
- In Ayurveda, there are three ‘Doshas‘ – Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Doshas are bodily humors or energies which regulate our body. Inspired from the natural elements, our body is a combination of these doshas – Vata for Wind, Pitta for Fire and Kapha for Earth. When the doshas are out of balance, this leads to mental, emotional and physical health issues. The key is to be aware of our dosha combination, aware of what is out of balance and taken action to re-balance same for a healthy life.
- In Hindu philosophy, there are three ‘Gunas‘ (which means Qualities). These are energetic forces or states of nature which weave together to form balance in our world. These are Tamas (Stability); Rajas (Activity); Sattva (Consciousness). We are a combination of these qualities as a result of our daily choices. As we go through cycles of change, we have to balance these ‘gunas’ in order to stay fit, energetic and vibrant.
- In many Religions, we represent God and the higher energy into three distinct energies – Trinity in Christianity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit; Trimurti in Hinduism – Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati; Trinity in ancient Egypt – Osiris, Isis, Horus; and Three elements in Islam – Islam, Iman, Ihsan.
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are three stages to healing people in a holistic way – Purge, Balance, Strengthen. It is a natural healing process which focuses on (1) removing the toxins (2) balancing our energies (3) strengthening our system.
- When it comes to understanding a Situation, there are three sides. These are essential in observing, reading and understanding for decision making. In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) it’s called perceptual positions. There is (1) MY perspective (2) YOUR perspective and (3) the perspective of an Observer. This helps create a clearer, richer and wider map of the situation.
- In Storytelling, the most impactful stories have a powerful introduction, engaging body and insightful ending. Many memorable stories feature three characters: Three little pigs; Three musketeers, Three blind mice, Goldilocks & the three bears, Three stooges; Three monkeys; Jokes as well – Three men walk into a bar … ; A priest, an Imam and a rabbi …; A French, an American and an Englishman …
- Best selling Movies and Books use the Power of Three in the form of Trilogies. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Toy Story, The Dark Knight, Millenium, The Godfather, Fifty Shades, Back to the Future, Before Sunset, The Matrix, Ocean’s Eleven, The Bourne Trilogy, Divergent are a few notable examples of Trilogies.
- In Communication and Influence, many powerful messages which influences people were articulated using the Power of Three. The ancient Romans called it the Tricolon and used it in the Art of Rhetoric. Simply, if you want something to stick in someone’s head, put it in a sequence of three.
The ‘Power of Three’ in Communication
Here are a few powerful examples which have been used throughout history to great effect:
- Veni, Vidi, Vicci (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar
- Government of the People, by the People, for the People – Abraham Lincoln
- Our priorities are Education, Education, Education – Tony Blair
- Friends, Romans & Countrymen, lend me your ears -William Shakespeare
- Blood, Sweat and Tears – Winston Churchill
- Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer – Adolf Hitler (One People, One Empire, One Leader)
- Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – French maxim (Freedom, Equality, Fraternity)
- Citius – Altius – Fortius – Olympic Motto (Faster, Higher Stronger)
- Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – Thomas Jefferson
- Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Applying the Power of Three
We can use the Power of Three to structure our thoughts consistently, communicate and present our ideas clearly as well as influence people effectively. Here’s how you can use the Power of Three at work:
- Communication – Structure your intervention in three main points – “Here are the three things I am going to talk about…” – Say what you are going to say (3 points), say it (in more details), and say what you said (recap the 3 points)
- Goals – Focus on ‘Three to Thrive’ – “Our three main objectives for this period are …” Focus on three main priorities for the day, the week, the month, or the quarter. People remember three more easily.
- Feedback – Provide Feedback using Three Elements of the Sandwich model (1) Positive – What you did well… (2) Area for Improvement – What you could improve… (2) Future Pace – What i look forward from you in the future…
- Strategy – When it comes to Strategic planning, many companies use scenario planning. They focus on three alternate courses of action or three ranges of targets. Called the MAD approach – where one sets three possible targets ranging from Minimum to Achievable to Dream.
- Culture – In terms of culture, it is best to articulate same around a maximum of three core values. Three is the maximum. More than that, people do not remember. If you have more than three – think again! Choosing three forces companies to get to the root of who they really are and what they stand for.
Fun Compilation of the Power of Three
Three’s are everywhere! Here is a fun list showcasing the most popular Power of Three concepts, expressions and elements:
- Past, Present, Future – Three facets of Time
- Height, Width, Depth – Three Dimensions
- Input, Throughput, Output – Three parts to a Process
- Start, Continue, Stop – Three elements of Feedback
- Introduction, Body, Conclusion – Three parts of a Speech
- Beginning, Middle, Ending – Three parts of a Story
- Thesis, Anti-thesis, Synthesis – Three elements of a discourse
- Emergence, Divergence, Convergence – Three parts of a facilitation session
- Green, Amber, Red – Traffic lights for progress
- Me, You, Them – Three perspectives to a situation
- Father, Son, Holy Spirit – The Holy Trinity
- Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh – Trimurti or Three Deities in Hinduism
- Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati – Tridevi in Hinduisim
- Head, Heart, Guts – Three Centres of Intelligence
- Mind, Body, Soul – Three elements of wellness & human spirit
- Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviours – Human behaviour cycle
- Neutron, Proton, Electron – Three particles of the Atom
- People, Planet, Profits – Triple Bottom line
- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle – Eco-friendly practices
- Purge, Balance, Strengthen – Three phases of Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Glad, Mad, Sad – Frames to capture team emotions and dynamics
- Vata, Pitta, Kapha – Three Dosha’s in Ayurveda
- Tamas, Rajas, Sattva – Three Guna’s in Hinduism
- Positive, Negative, Neutral – Three charges / states
- Optimist, Pessimist, Realist – Three filters to see the world
- Ethos, Pathos, Logos – From the Art of Rhetoric
- Victim, Persecutor, Savior – Three roles in the Drama Triangle
- Ready, Set, Go – Three stages to start
- Progress, Regress, Digress – Three directions we move
- Hindsight, Insight, Foresight – Key perspectives to learn
- Parent, Adult, Child behaviour – Three elements of transactional analysis
- Land, Sea, Air
- Here, There, Everywhere!
And the list goes on! How do you use the Power of Three?
Please share in the comments section.