Where should I move? Which is the best place for me? Where will I be happiest living? Chances are if you’re asking yourself these questions and have spent any time researching prospective locations online, you’ve seen the lists. You know the ones I’m talking about. Best Places to Live! Best Places for Singles! Most Affordable Places! Best Places to Retire! And so on.
We’re accustomed to rankings. They shape many of our everyday decisions, from which restaurants we try, to which hotels we stay at, to which products we buy. The thing is, choosing where to move to is not an everyday decision. It’s one of the most important and expensive life decisions we make–one that affects the people we meet, the work we do and our overall happiness.
We can opt to not go back to a “best” restaurant or hotel or to return a “best” product when they don’t work out, but course-correcting a move to a “best” place gone awry is a lot more complicated. The elements that influence where we choose to move are incredibly personal and nuanced. Deciding which place is right for us requires careful reflection, research, consideration and planning.
Where a place ranks on some random list is irrelevant.
“Best” places to live lists may seem innocuous, but they are really insidious, gimmicky works of fiction that do nothing but distract and mislead under the guise of being helpful. When taken at face value, they can do much more harm than good. Since I’m not able to eradicate these ridiculous “best” places lists from the face of the earth, I’m going to do the next best thing, which is to call them on their shit while giving you reliable alternatives to keep your moving search on firm footing.
Exactly why are “best” place lists totally bogus? Let me count the ways.
Best places lists are biased.
Have you ever wondered how places get ranked on “best” lists? A review of list-manufacturing methodologies shows that places are ranked based on an impressively unscientific mystery blend of select statistical data (some from reliable sources, others not so much) and public opinion. In other words, it’s a popularity contest. The places with the most favorable votes in the polls win a coveted ranking on a “best” list.
While it’s a great ego-boost for the places that rank, it’s a potential nightmare for moving-minded people who believe these lists actually mean something. Just because a place gets a bunch of “likes” in some poll doesn’t mean you’ll like it too. What other people think of a place, whether you know them or not, is irrelevant. Not only that, giving weight to their opinions can put your search for a compatible place to live on shaky ground.
Best places lists assume a hive-mind mentality.
“Best” places lists assume we’re one-dimensional blobs rather than multi-layered individuals. Because public opinion is such a central component of their ranking formula, it means they believe if enough people give the thumbs up on a particular city or town, other people will naturally love it too. News flash, list manufacturers, this is not Invasion of the Body Snatchers and we are not pod people!
Finding the right place to live means finding someplace that’s compatible with your individual needs, preferences, goals and priorities. It’s like finding the right partner. You’re the only person who knows the exact qualities you’re looking for. It’s by focusing on these qualities–not dopey lists that focus on what other people believe is important–that you’ll find the place that’s right for you.
Best places lists are overly simplistic.
“Best” place lists are an insult to our intelligence as well as our individuality. List manufacturers gather up a few statistics of their own choosing, mix them in with a healthy dose of public opinion and, presto, you magically have all the information you need to decide where to move. They want you to marvel at how simple and effortless it is–just slap a ranking on a handful of places and you’re good to go! No need to break a sweat or even–gasp–think, because they’ve done all the work for you.
Contrary to what the list manufacturers want you to believe, choosing where to move is not a decision that lends itself to quick and dirty “hacks”. If anything, so-called shortcuts like these put you at greater risk for making a wrong move. You’re better off ignoring these vacuous lists. Instead, devote your time and energy to reflection, deliberation, planning and research, so that you can reap the rewards of a successful move.
Best places lists are designed to confuse.
Have you noticed how many different media outlets have hopped aboard the “best” places list bandwagon? What’s really weird is they all contradict one other, because they each put their own spin on the same asinine methodology.
For example, the best place to live could be Austin, TX (U.S. News & World Report) or Ann Arbor, MI (Livability) or Carmel, IN (Niche). These same outlets respectively rank Sarasota, FL, Walnut Creek, CA and Whiskey Creek, FL as the best place to retire and Huntsville, AL, Lansing, MI and Brackettville, TX as the most affordable place to live.
What a mess! Your best bet is to channel Fox Mulder and “trust no one” who’s churning out these sketchy lists. Not only are they meaningless, they detract from what’s really important, which is to identify exactly what you need a place to have to support the life you want and to use this information to guide your search.
It’s a jungle online and “best” places lists are one of many lurking perils that can derail your search if you let them. Luckily, I’ve got your back with personalized tools, strategies and support to help you zero in on your best places. Because, after all, those are the only places that really matter!
Finally, a quick, easy – and free! – way to cut through all the bullshit online.
“Top 10 Websites to Avoid on Your Moving Search” is a handy reference tool that will help you navigate around the worst offenders online, so you can keep your research focused and moving forward. Download your free list here.