The Magic of 7

Last week my son asked me what my favourite number is and then explained that his favourite is 22 because he sees it everywhere.  My favourite is 7 and his question got me wondering why this number seems magical to me. 

I can’t tell you why I chose 7 to be my number from a young age but mathematician Alex Bellos  demonstrated that it is the most common favourite number.  Out of a control group of 44,000 over 4,000 of them named the number 7 which was far more than any other number which unsurprisingly is a fact that many magicians take advantage of.

7 is a magical and significant number in many ways and one of these is when you are inducting staff so when you are performing this very important function it is good to remember the 3 sevens.  

You have:

7 days to make an impression and represent your company in a favourable manner. 

7 weeks to reinforce this impression.

7 months to nurture this impression at which time you made either a positive or negative impact on your new employee.  If it is a positive impact, great job; if it is negative impact it is unlikely that you will ever be able to turn this around. In fact you will likely find yourself witnessing the “7-month itch” and soon be embarking on the recruiting process again.

You have:

7 days to make an impression and represent your company in a favourable manner. 

7 weeks to reinforce this impression.

7 months to nurture this impression after which time you have secured either a positive or negative impression.  If it is a positive impression, great job; if it is negative impression it is unlikely that you will be able to turn this around and you may in fact find yourself witnessing the “7-month itch” and soon be filling a vacancy again.

 Here are some other reasons why 7 is magical.

  • 7 has major significance in almost every major religion.
    In the Old Testament the world was created in six days and God rested on the seventh, creating the basis of the seven-day-week we use to this day. In the New Testament the number seven symbolizes the unity of the four corners of the Earth with the Holy Trinity. The number seven is also featured in the Book of Revelation (seven churches, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven stars). The Koran speaks of seven heavens and Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in Mecca (Islam’s most sacred site) seven times. In Hinduism there are seven higher worlds and seven underworlds, and in Buddhism the newborn Buddha rises and takes seven steps.

  • Seven circles form the symbol called “The Seed of Life”. The Seed of Life symbolizes the six days of creation. The central circle symbolizes the day of rest. 

  • In numerology it denotes the thinker, seeker, searcher of truth.

  • There are 7 colours in the rainbow.

  • There are 7 letters in the Roman numeral system.

  • 7 notes in the diatonic scale

  • 7 matches our memory capacity.  In 1956, George Miller of Harvard University wrote one of the classic papers in psychology in which he demonstrated that most people can retain roughly seven items of information in their short term memory. That is why phone numbers in the U.S. and many other countries tend to have seven digits (area code not withstanding) as it is the most digits most people are likely to recall (although cell phones did away with the need to recall anyone's phone number, even our own). 

  • 7 fits our attention spans.  Because of our mental capacity favouring seven items, seven is also a good fit for our attention spans, as long as the information is presented in seven groups. While bloggers and authors tend to take advantage of this fact, some seem to take more advantage than others e.g. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  

  • 7 is associated with luck and magical properties. 
    Seven not only represents the jackpot on slot-machines, but also is the basis for many myths and folklore. For example, various parts of the world have beliefs about the seventh son of a seventh son, legends that endowed him with magical powers of both the good and evil variety (e.g., the child was believed to have healing powers according to Irish folklore while Romanian folklore foresaw him becoming a vampire).  

  • 7 has been significant since ancient times.
    It was prominent in many ancient cultures. Most famous of all were the seven ‘wonders of the world’ which comprised the entire bucket list of every world traveller (the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria).

  • Ocean waves roll in sets of 7.  This isn’t actually true but many of us know this “myth”.

  • The housing market goes in cycles of 7 years.

  • 7 is the sum of the first eight prime numbers.

  • The 7-year itch.  This one is a little less magical and today is commonly used to reference ailing marriages but it originates as a name for the long duration of itching caused by irritating and contagious skin complaints including STDs.

What is your favourite number?