Your focus often determines the type of leader that you are. According to David Burton, county engagement specialist with University of Missouri Extension, our communities need more positive leaders.

It often begins with the issue of your focus.

“I remember buying a Pontiac Grand Am in 1989 when I got my first full-time job. As soon as I purchased it seemed like I saw Pontiacs everywhere. My mind was trained to say; there is a Pontiac, there is a Pontiac,” said Burton.
Is it true that there were suddenly more Pontiacs on the road? Of course not. 

“The difference was in what I was looking for and focusing my attention on. If you are looking for pain and misery, you will find it every time. That is what you have tuned your heart and mind toward,” said Burton. “We often get what we are looking for because that is our focus.”
When individuals turn the focus toward joy and the positive themes, you most often see it and grow a positive outlook. Then your positive attitude can rub off on others. 

But, Burton warns, the process is not fast.

“There is no magic wand to be waived that will improve the quality of life or increase community involvement suddenly. When a community declines, it is often a slow fade. The same is true when the community improves,” said Burton.

There are ways residents can affect a community, and one of the greatest ways is negativity versus a positive focus on what is going on in the community 

Burton notes that negativity is contagious. But so is a positive community attitude. Being positive can help a person take ownership of the community, grow in leadership, and expand volunteerism and involvement, all of which are key steps forward to improvement.

“Think about what originally attracted you to the community and then rally around that aspect. At the same time, individuals that are local and negative should resolve to turn over a new leaf, forgive and forget, and set some positive goals,” said Burton.

Burton suggests connecting with positive people around something that you love and focus on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. 

“Research also shows that people who are positive are also healthier, they live longer, and they are happier,” said Burton.

Many people have seen videos or pictures of a caterpillar forming a chrysalis and then eventually coming out as a butterfly. It is a marvelous and fascinating process.

Many stories exist around and describing this process. 

“But I think the greatest part of the miracle is missed. Once the transformation has taken place, it cannot be reversed,” said Burton. 

There are new colors and a new future ahead; the caterpillar cannot go backward. It is not possible to put the butterfly back in the chrysalis or back in the form of a caterpillar.
“This same applies to our own lives, businesses, and organizations. There are lots of ways to improve. Many ways to discover your future -- especially if you stay positive -- and once you do you do not want to get back,” said Burton.

Community development specialists with MU Extension help people create communities of the future by tapping into local strengths and university resources. The Community Development Program works collaboratively with communities to foster economic development, leadership development, community decision making, community emergency preparedness and inclusive communities.

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