I always thought leaving New York City would be good for me because when you live there, the push to get the best of everything is very strong. New Yorkers are maximizers, a term coined by psychologist Barry Schwartz for someone who is always thinking they can do better. These people are generally unhappy.
There’s a spectrum, for sure. But if maximizing were a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest in NYC everyone is in the 6-10 range. And the 6s think they’re really laid back. I wanted to be in the 1-5 range, where research shows that people lead much happier lives.
I knew I’d need to leave New York City to do that. In Madison, WI, I have to admit, I remained a maximizer. I got a lawyer from Chicago to sue the schools for their incredibly poor compliance with IDEA. I flew to LA for haircuts. I refused to stop flying American Airlines even though smaller, scrappy airlines had more flexible schedules out of Wisconsin.
But the truth is that you do become who you live with, and the maximizer is slowly being knocked out of me. Which has been my goal all along. Research shows that people are happier in rural towns than in cities, primarily because there is no way to be an maximizer. (I have argued before, many times, that people who live in cities don’t care about happiness, so it doesn’t matter that they are not happy.) Read more