Speaker Highlights Small Choices That Pave the Way to Happiness

February 10, 2014

Campus News

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Mr. Daniel S. Bowling III, an interdisciplinary scholar who focuses on the intersection of law, work, and psychology, spoke at chapel February 7 on the connection between leadership and happiness for the 2013-14 Rogers Leadership Forum.

“I’m convinced the best leaders are those who are joyful in their leadership,” said Bowling, a practicing labor and employment lawyer and CEO of Positive Workplace Solutions, which specializes in designing human performance programs and strategies for senior executives. “There are choices that great leaders make, choices to be happy. These are choices you can make in your own life.”

He listed seven of these choices:

Choose an optimistic framework, a realistic, fact-based appraisal of the future with an optimistic bias. Optimism can be learned, and pessimism can be unlearned.

Look at the big picture, using three simple tools: Challenge the negative voice in your head; live life through the windshield, not the rearview mirror; practice mindfulness (shut down, unplug, pray, count your blessings).

Choose to use your strengths. You’re six times more likely to be happy, productive, and engaged when using your strengths and talents to perform a task.

Choose to be active. Stop sitting and get going. We are biologically programmed for movement.

Choose to develop relationships. Pay attention to relationships, not just friends on Facebook. Unplug and pay attention to the people in your life.

Choose to laugh. Humor unleashes positive emotions.

Choose meaning. Look inside yourself for meaning, purpose, a calling.

A graduate of Millsaps College, Bowling received a J.D. from Duke University School of Law in 1980, and a master’s degree in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. He has taught for the last 10 years at Duke University School of Law. He is also a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches and conducts research with Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center. Until 2006 he was senior vice president of Human Resources for Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., responsible for all human resources matters for the company’s 80,000 employees in North America and Western Europe.

Mr. Dan Keel, father of senior Tal, sophomore Henry, and seventh grader Bailey Keel, arranged for Bowling to speak at chapel and meet with CSO executives for the 2013-14 Rogers Leadership Forum. Judy and King Rogers, parents of King W. Rogers IV ’98, provided an endowment in 2000 to fund annual leadership development programs for MUS students. The income from the fund provides the resources for a renowned speaker on leadership and expanded leadership opportunities for students. The goal of the endowment is to prepare students for roles as servant leaders at MUS, in college, and in their communities.

Lower School Students Ask Questions about Happiness

Following Bowling’s main chapel presentation, he answered questions from Lower School students, including the following:

Jason Wang, eighth grade: “How does being active correlate with being happy?”

Daniel Bowling: “It is so critical to physical health, and physical health tends to track with reported happiness. It also promotes setting goals.”

Walker Crosby, seventh grade: “When you were working for Coke, after you had to sit down with people when they had been fired, did you ever have to meet them in court when they tried to sue Coke?”

DB: “No, I didn’t. Part of my job was to counsel them to look through the front windshield and move on.”

Stan Smythe, eighth grade: “For people with mental disorders, i.e. autism, how does happiness work for them?”

DB: “Some of the same tools and techniques used for the depressed, anxious, and clinical population can be of help, but I don’t know the specifics about autism.”

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