Should you change where you live? (a worked “how to solve a question”)

It’s not a hard question, but it potentially has a lot of moving parts.

This post is going to be two in one.  The first is whether you should move geography, the second is how I go through a problem.  In red.

First up – brainstorm ideas:

Meta-level

  • Make a list of relevant factors of staying or going (then google it to check for any I missed)
  • Decision making strategies

Object level

  • Why did this come up?
  • Make a list of things you wish were different with how you live now
  • Make a list of features of your current geography
  • Make a list of features that you know of in other geographies that you would like to obtain.

relevant factors

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Relationships
  • Population density
  • Population diversity breakdown
  • Local safety (bad neighbourhoods)
  • Religion
  • Politics, country-scale political climate
  • Government structure, public welfare
  • public transport
  • cost of living
  • quality of food, variation of food, culture of food.
  • exchange rate
  • Normal temperature/weather/climate (rain, cloud, sun, heat, cold, wind)
  • Extreme weather risk.  (i.e. cyclones, earthquakes, bushfires)
  • Work (and commute)
  • Salary
  • Pollution (Light, Air or noise pollution)
  • Residential or natural environment, parks, trees, tall buildings…
  • Ocean (if you swim, or like beach culture)
  • Landmarks
  • native plants, animals, diseases.
  • culture, art.
  • difficulty in moving
  • opportunity/plans
  • language barrier
  • public amenities
  • Education
  • Dwelling -> upsize, downsize, sidegrade…
  • Sleep – are you getting enough of it
  • postage costs

Why did this come up?

Usually you are thinking of a seeding factor; a reason why you are moving.  It will help to keep it in mind when planning other things.  Is there something wrong or pushing you out, is the current location stagnant, is something pulling you?  Write that down.    Keep it in mind.  Considering the context of the event may help you make a more informed choice, it’s also why it’s often hard to ask for advice without being more specific about what seems to be the difficulty.

Factors

When you move you will be exchanging your current set of these factors for a new and different set of these factors.  Sometimes you might move with your family, sometimes you might be moving across town and still have the same public transport network but just pay cheaper rent.

Your job; should you choose to accept it: work out which ones are getting better, which are getting worse, and which are staying the same.  Some of them will do both.

Example: you live in a small town with a few friends. you are moving to a big city where you know nobody but you expect to make many more friends quickly.  friends are getting both worse and better at the same time.

How?

There should be some instruction set to make it easier to actually come to an answer.  Not everyone could have automatically generated this list, and not everyone will know what to do with it now.  So what to do with the information is listed here.

  1. Take the list above – best of copied to a spreadsheet, make two copies of the list, for each point; write a few words about what you have now in your current location.
  2. If certain points seem irrelevant to you then don’t worry.  Cross them out.
    E.g. If the weather doesn’t bother you much then you can skip it.
  3. For each point, out of 10, rate – how much do you care about this factor?  and also out of 10 – How well do you fulfil this need right now.  (this is where it’s necessary to understand which ones you don’t care about)
  4. On the second copy, fill out the details of the place you want to go.  If you don’t yet have a destination; look at the first list and find the things that you care about a lot with a low rating.  to start your search, make a list of places that you expect will have a high rating in those area, or search by that thing (i.e. places of religious significance).Of course there are ways to do this badly.  for example, as above – you live in a small town with a few friends. you are moving to a big city where you know nobody but you expect to make many more friends quickly.  friends are getting both worse and better at the same time.  If on pondering you realise that no place ever will have more friends than the place you are now, because everywhere else is foreign, then that makes it a not-great metric to go on.  However (in this example) you might benefit from considering instead where might have the potential to have good friends, (or crazy ideas like taking your friends with you)
  5. Use your newly laid out knowledge as a guide on where to go and what to look for.

Consider the inverse proposal

Heuristic thinking strategies that might help you.  There are generic ones for problems and then there are questions that suit certain problems very well.  These are relatively generic but I have heard great success in applying them to moving decisions.

This is very generic.  If you are leaving a place for an obvious reason (for example political unrest), it would take a lot to convince you to stay.  This is where the idea of thinking of the inverse proposal comes in.

Example: your work has offered you a promotion.  It’s $20,000 extra.  But you would have to leave your friends and family and work in a city several hours away for at least a year.

Example in reverse:  I am going to offer you a $20,000 pay cut and in exchange you get to live in a town with your friends.

*it can be hard to generate the reverse example from your own perspective.

Some people can easily say, pay “$20k just for my lousy friends, hell no”.  Other people can easily say, “listen boss, $50k and you got a deal.”

Is there an alternative solution

This is a fully generic question to ask.

Before you convince yourself that the factors are out of your hands, consider if you can take it into your own hands.  If you don’t at least ask, you will genuinely never know if it could have gone differently.  Can you take your friends with?  Can you take the pay rise but not move for work?  Can you still have a nice lake even if you don’t have an ocean?  Who knows.  At least consider it.

How can you make it easier for yourself?

This is a fully generic strategy for getting things done.

As with many decisions in life, they are big, they are hard, they are scary.  Are there things you can do to make the decision easier for yourself?


Meta: this took three hours to research and write.

Also posted on Lesswrong.

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