3 Reasons Why We Like 3 Reasons

We might be able to trace the origin back to the 10 Commandments, but listicles (not to be confused with any anatomical parts) have exploded in popularity. If you’re a Facebook user, blog reader (which I hope you are, since you’re here), or newsletter receiver, you are well aware of this. We like things enumerated. We like bold letters separating concepts. We like plenty of white space.

We have enough clutter in our minds—we don’t need endless paragraphs of actual information or wisdom or thought-provoking ideas. We want the Cliff’s Notes of life, dammit!

So today I’m going to take a big gulp of the Kool-Aid and explain—ala listicle, of course—why THREE reasons is the cat’s meow of enumerated explanations.




1. We can pay attention that long.

Recent studies state that the average attention span of an adult is shorter than that of a goldfish. Are you still with me? Because that span is eight seconds. (A goldfish’s is nine, so maybe they’re still reading.) So…three reasons seem like something we can stay in the game for—it’s do-able. Admit it—when you clicked on this link and saw that it was reasonably short, didn’t it help you stick around? I thought so. While we love and savor a long novel, our frequent forays down the internet rabbit hole—where an awful lot of our info is gleaned these days—are fortified by brevity. Three works. Now that you’re almost done with my first reason, you are jazzed that there are only two more, aren’t you? (Which I hope is more of a reflection on our growing distractibility rather than my writing.)


2. We like simple answers—even when they’re really not all that simple.

Three reasons you’re not losing the weight you want…Three reasons why sleep deprivation is harmful to your health…Three reasons why we shouldn’t ignore global warming…Three reasons achieving peace in the Middle East is possible…

No matter how ridiculously complicated a subject might be, if you can give three reasons in answering or evaluating it, well, then there’s hope, isn’t there? Or at least we can overview the issue and feel like we have a tiny grasp of it—that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s human nature to like the short run, especially in our world of instant gratification. Ending world hunger in three steps is so much more attainable than 27 steps, don’t you agree?

And moving onto my last reason is giving you that same feeling you get when putting away the last of the groceries, isn’t it? Thank God, we are…Almost. Done.


3. Three is just so…perfect.




From the Holy Trinity to The Three Stooges, the number three has historically been a significant number and is considered sacred, perfect, or magical in many cultures and religions. There’s a beauty to it—a classic arc…

Past, present, future…
Beginning, middle, end…
Moe, Larry, Curly…

Three just flows.

It makes it feel like you’ve gone full circle (or, more accurately, triangle). I hope you’re feeling that sense of beauty now…as we’ve come full triangle in this post. If not, then I could give you some more reasons why we like three reasons, but then I would totally undercut the point of this whole thing and show you that there are reasons that giving four or five reasons is also something we like, and I really don’t feel like being counterproductive today. So if you’re not totally convinced as to why we like three reasons in life, then I ask you to give me at least two good reasons why not. It’s the least you could do if you’re going to be contrary.


All photos are my own.
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