Theory of Reactions: The Exception & the Norm

Imagine what you would feel if you see Sachin Tendulkar walking on the road. What about Bill Gates, Ratan Tata, Roger Federer. Maybe someone like JK Rowling, Anjelina Jolie!

For most of you (myself included), the reaction would be something like:

• Eye gazing because of the awe inspiring feeling which comes within
• Jumping in to get a better glimpse of the person
• Autograph please!
• You may even tell your friends later on, “Hey bro, you won’t believe who I saw on the road today!”

For all the car lovers, imagine what you feel when you see a BMW 5 Series running on the road, or a Mercedes or a Hummer! You get a feeling of envy, maybe a feeling of zeal to own one for yourself.

What happens inside looking at these people or situations is a reaction to an Exception.

The Norm: Let’s look at it a bit deeper. More than 95% of the people or things we come across on an average day are just there. We don’t even notice them. They are not even worth paying attention to, spending time noticing those feels like a waste of time. Think of all the things you come across when you open your eyes in the morning. The stuff kept on your table, the curtains in the room; or when you are driving, the green trees, the blue sky, the grey road; or the people around you, your neighbors, colleagues at work.

All these ‘regular’ incidences are what I refer to as the Norm. By virtue of being there most of the times day after day, our mental faculties are developed in a way we tend to ignore the mundane.

Until, an exception happens.

The Exception: Imagine you are driving in the morning and on the road, you spoExceptiont a guy without clothes, jumping and dancing crazily on the sidewalk while playing an imaginary guitar. And suddenly your attention goes towards him. The entire mind focus shifts from the road to the crazy guy on the street!

Imagine another situation, you are walking down the road and suddenly a guy unknowingly puts his foot on a banana peel and slips and falls down. Your reaction – laughter!

In effect, you are reacting to what I refer to as an Exception.

Let’s go back to spotting the Sachin Tendulkars of the world on the street. And the ‘wow’ feeling that comes up. The inspiration and zeal to become one of those is another reaction to an Exception.

The Exception-Norm Continuum: A Norm doesn’t evoke any significant positive or negative reactions in the mind. An Exception, however, has the potential to evoke both strong positive and strong negative reactions, either one of the two or in certain cases both at the same time. Let’s call it the Exception-Norm Continuum as shown below.

Exception-Norm Continuum


Many times we come across Criminals & Thieves while watching TV or otherwise, and a feeling of hatred, disgust (negative reaction) develops in the mind. “Why do these people do such bad things? They should be hanged.” Or if after working seamlessly for a year, your laptop or your mobile phone hangs and crashes all of a sudden. A feeling for sadness, helplessness (negative reaction) comes up. An exception can have both a sad reaction and a wow reaction!

Since a Norm usually doesn’t bring any significant reactions, it keeps us in a calm, non-turbulent state of mind most of the times.

Think-it-over: Whenever something ‘unusual’ happens in the world around you think of what happens inside you. Think of the reaction that comes up in the mind and the body. Is this reaction automatic or are you choosing it? If it is happening on its own, can you instead give a try and choose it? Can you decide whether to react, rather than just reacting and thinking later on, “Oh maybe I shouldn’t have done that.”

Keeping a calm, non-turbulent state of mind even during an Exception is often the stepping stone to a lasting success and happiness.