This, my friends, is exactly what has been running through my head as of late. Anybody who wants to move to California and states “good weather” as the main reason is going to really be in for a big surprise. It’s a great place, but definitely not because of the weather.

It is difficult to escape the focus of our own attention – difficult to consider what it is we may not be considering – and this is one of the reasons why we so often mispredict our emotional responses to future events. For example, most Americans can be classified as one of two types: those who live in California and are happy they do, and those who don’t live in California but believe they’d be happy if they did. Yet, research shows that Californians are actually no happier than anyone else – so why does everyone (including Californians) seem to believe they are? California has some of the most beautiful scenery and some of the best weather in the continental United States, and when non-Californians hear that magic word their imaginations instantly produce mental images of sunny beaches and giant redwood trees. But while Los Angeles has a better climate than Columbus, climate is just one of many things that determine a person’s happiness – and yet all those other things are missing from the mental image. If we were to add some of those missing details to our mental image of beaches and palm trees – say, traffic, supermarkets, airports, sports teams, cable rates, housing costs, earthquakes, landslides, and so on – then we might recognize that L.A. beats Columbus in some ways (better weather) and Columbus beats L.A. in others (less traffic). We think that Californians are happier than Ohioans because we imagine California with so few details – and we make no allowance for the fact that the details we are failing to imagine could drastically alter the conclusions we draw.

If you want to read more about why we are often so stumped by our imaginations in terms of picturing our own happiness, read Stumbling on Happiness from which the above excerpt is taken.