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Focusing on the Positive is More Important Than Ever

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dr. Steve Paisley

It’s been a very challenging year. From my own perspective, it’s been a difficult year as a parent, as a university employee and as a beef producer. I realize I’m not alone, and I have a lot to be thankful for. Regardless, there have been challenges for everyone.  

One of the issues bothering me the most is how, as a nation, we have shifted to focusing on what divides us, what is wrong and what is negative. Personally, I can’t function long-term on negativity. I think as ranchers and cattle producers, we exist partly because we are optimists, and in regards to prices and weather, we have short memories.

I’ve read several online articles from several nationwide reputable sources on the level of anxiety and sleeplessness existing nationwide, probably worldwide. We are all concerned about the next few weeks, about the future and about the opportunities that will exist for our children and grandchildren.  

After several months of sleeplessness, anxiety, concern and love for my family, I have ultimately decided the most important thing I can do is to focus on the positive. Rather than dwell on what divides us and what is fundamentally wrong, I decided to focus on what is right and try to encourage and promote positivity as much as I can.  To me, this is the long-term solution.  

Rather than focusing on the evils of Facebook and social media, about right and left, about red and blue, let’s focus on what we appreciate and cherish, and use generosity and forgiveness to sustain what we want to protect.

There are several things I cherish.

 I cherish living in Wyoming.  I’ve lived a lot of places, but I’m constantly mesmerized by how blue the sky is, how clean the air is and how beautiful this country is. I grew up in the sandhills of Nebraska, which is special, but still doesn’t compare to good ol’ WYO.  

I love the people I work with. I have had the privilege of working with ranching families all over the state, and every day I am in awe of the resourcefulness, generosity and independence of farmers and ranchers across the state. In Wyoming, our ranching families are stewards of our most valuable resource – open spaces – and they do it with an amazing respect for nature, animals and stewardship.

I am proud to work for a land-grant university. I think it’s a privilege to work for the producers of the state, and important to conduct research and investigate issues directly affecting producers. I am excited to find solutions to help working ranchers and working families, not the bottom line of a privately-owned company.  

I feel a responsibility to be a steward of the land. I am lucky to be a part of a family and a family operation that has been in existence since 1888. I find satisfaction in making improvements, sustainable decisions and sustainable investments of time, labor and money. 

Ultimately, I’m not the eventual steward. Hopefully I’m leaving things in better condition for the next generation.

So, it’s easy to focus on the negative. It exists everywhere. It requires less imagination and less thought. My wish for the coming year is as we move into the fall, as we make decisions that impact our future and as we plan for the future, we do so by focusing on the positive.  

What can we do as individuals to make our community a better place and our state a better place for our children and grandchildren?  We need to focus on finding the beauty, not the ugliness. We need to find opportunities, not roadblocks. We need to develop partnerships and friendships, not division.  

I love this state, and want to focus on the pride, inclusiveness and genuineness that makes our state great. Go WYO!  

Dr. Steve Paisley is the director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center and Wyoming State Extension beef cattle specialist. He can be reached at 

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