Get Social Capital and be a Happier Grants Professional!

If money does not increase happiness very much beyond about $10,000 annual per capita income, what does? The answer – so­cial capital – may surprise you, but it is a key to becoming a happier grants professional.

In 2000, Rob­ert D. Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard University who specializes in the study of democracy in Europe, published a best-seller titled Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Reviv­al of American Community.  In this fascinat­ing study of changing American behavior, he helped popularize the concept of social capi­tal as a major predictor of satisfaction.

In the words of Put­nam, while “physical capital refers to physi­cal objects and human capital refers to proper­ties of individuals, social capital refers to connec­tions among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.  In that sense, social capital is closely related to what some have called ‘civic virtue.’  The difference is that ‘social capital’ calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embed­ded in a dense network of reciprocal social relations.”

Social capital has an individual and collec­tive dimension.  On the individual side, people make connections that benefit themselves.  For example, job seekers often “network” to find employment because most of us get jobs not because of what we know but because of who we know.  Social capital usually trumps human capital when seeking employment.

On the collective side, when individuals make connections and work together, their workplaces benefit.  Social connections foster reciprocity, trust, and cooperation.  That great philosopher Yogi Berra understood the value of social capital when he advised that you should “always go to other people’s funerals – otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

The evidence is overwhelming that there is a strong, positive relationship between social capital and feelings of happiness and well-being. When people are positively involved with co-workers and professional grants organizations, they feel happier and more satisfied with their lives.

Social bonds are the most important predictors of life satisfaction.  People who have supportive friendships, marriages, and work relationships are happier than people who are so­cially isolated.

Robert E. Lane, the author of a comprehensive study of happiness in America, The Loss of Happiness in Market Democra­cies (2000), summarized this point well when he wrote that “most of the pleasures of life are not priced, are not for sale, and therefore do not pass through the mar­ket.”  Attending an organizational meeting on a regular basis is the equivalent of doubling your income when it comes to generating happiness.

The message is clear about the value of social capital.  Build social capital at your workplace, and you will become a happier person.

 

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