No, it’s not a typo, I really meant it. You don’t always actually want the things you think you want.
We’ve had a copy of the Financial Times sitting on our kitchen table for the last week, and I finally got round to reading the article headlined “Liveable v Lovable”
It’s an article looking at why the cities which are consistently voted the world’s most ‘liveable’ are not the places where anyone actually wants to live.
Vancouver, Vienna, Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen and Munich might be clean, safe and efficient, but it seems that most people want to live somewhere with a bit more bite.
“One wants to live in places which are large and complex, where you don’t know everyone and you don’t always know what’s going to happen next. Cities are places of opportunity but also of conflict, but where you can find safety in a crowd.”
One counter-intuitive finding of the report is that the cities which attract the highest levels of immigrants year after year are the ones with high levels of economic inequality. Why would that be?
“Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s hugely influential book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (2009) seems to present an obvious truth – that places where the differential in income between the wealthiest and the poorest is smallest tend to engender a sense of satisfaction and well-being. But while it may be socially desirable, that kind of comfort doesn’t necessarily make for vibrancy or dynamism. If everybody is where they want to be, no one is going anywhere.”
Can you imagine what your life would be like today if you suddenly found you had no more hopes, dreams or plans? What if you were exactly where you wanted to be? What then would drive you forward?
It is no great original insight to say that this is what leads so many top celebrities to ruin their lives with drink, drugs and debauchery. When they reach the top, find themselves with everything they ever wanted, there is noting to strive for, they get bored, and have to constantly search and search for something to desire, something to strive for, something to provide stimulation.
There’s good news, though. Even if you’ve achieved all your personal life goals, you’ve got your dream job, the perfect home, a loving, happy family, and plenty of money in the bank, there’s one great way of avoiding crushing, debilitating boredom: look to the needs of others.
Move to one of the world’s lovable cities and start to actively love it. Find the people at the bottom of the pile and give them a hand up. You’ll never find yourself short of challenges or goals there, and you might just find that the perfect place to live is a place that’s a little less than perfect.