Think Differently: A Path Toward Tranquility

Joseph Maiorano, PhD, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Harrison County 

Farming, as life, is neither easy nor predictable, and it does not ask our permission. We make mistakes, others treat us unfairly, and conditions don’t cooperate. When these adversities knock us from our groove, we may respond by raging, at ourselves, others, or conditions. Such reactions rob us, members of our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers of a creative, fulfilling, and tranquil existence.

Based on his research, psychoanalyst Albert Ellis (1997, 2016) reminds us that people and events do not upset us. Rather, we upset ourselves by what we think, or believe, about those people and events. When we are upset, we may react with aggression, depression, anxiety, and/or feelings of worthlessness. If we change our thinking, or beliefs, about people and events, we may reduce our negative emotions, and respond more appropriately.

Irrational Thinking

When an unexpected event occurs, we choose to think rationally or irrationally about that event. Irrational thinking lacks logic and sound judgement. For example, after returning from a trip to purchase a fitting for your tractor, you realize that you bought the wrong part. If you react by insisting that you are stupid or demand that this mistake should not have happened, then you are thinking irrationally. You made a mistake, but you are not stupid, and what should not have happened did happen. Irrational statements may include terms, such as, awful, terrible, always, never, must/n’t), should/n’t). Irrational thinking will hijack your brain, allowing only negative emotions. In the example above, you might react with anger at yourself.

Rational Thinking

Different thinking about your mistake: After realizing that you made a mistake, it would be rational, or reasonable, to think, I prefer that I had bought the correct part. I am disappointed at my mistake. I feel frustrated at this inconvenience. Rational statements liberate your brain to devise solutions. Let’s take a test drive: Imagine arriving home after a thirty-mile round trip to the dealer and realizing the fitting doesn’t fit. Say aloud the rational statements (above). How's your pulse?, respiration?, muscle tension? Might rational thinking be for you?

Work and Practice

If you have long been an irrational thinker, then you may have to work at thinking differently. Yet, because you, me, others, and conditions are prone to thwarting goals, you will have plenty of practice. When you feel upset, substitute rational for irrational statements, devise and try solutions, then savor some tranquility.

Joseph Maiorano, FCS Educator Harrison County can be reached at 740-942-8823 or maiorano.2@osu.eduJoseph works for Ohio State University Extension, Harrison County. Joseph and his wife, Mary, live in Steubenville, Ohio. They have four sons, including two who live at home.This article is a part of The Thriving Farmer series authored by Joseph. The Thriving Farmer—information to help farmers and their families make healthful choices. This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team,


Ellis, A.; Harper, R. (1997). A guide to rational living. 3rd Ed. Chatsworth, CA: Wilshire Book Company.

Ellis, A. (2016). How to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything, yes anything! New York, NY: Citadel Press.


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