THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Location, location: Think carefully about where to live

Take the question of where to live seriously. Don't let inertia push you toward a big-name city, the place you grew up, or your old college haunts. Make a conscious decision to live somewhere that will improve your quality of life by really understanding what your core needs and interests are– and will be.

Cities are competing to attract vibrant, creative populations and are branding themselves accordingly. Young people get this, and many treat cities as a consumer product to be test-driven, like a new car. So how do you choose where to live if everywhere is a possibility?

1. Learn what really matters. George Mason prof Richard Florida says: "Place is as important as having a job that challenges you, but not as important as relationships with family and friends."

Jane Ciccone got it. She and her husband "fell in love with San Francisco, but our families were in Massachusetts," she says. "No one would move there because of the cost of living." So they live in Newburyport.

2. Leave room for career flexibility. If you move to a city where the culture or demographics reflect your values and meet the needs of your non-work interests (e.g. kayaking) then you are more likely to move among careers without having to relocate away from your interests or relationships.

Realize that a high cost of living directly affects your career flexibility. You severely limit your ability to drop in and out of the workforce and careers if you're raising kids and paying a mortgage in an expensive place.

3. Live where your income is at least as high as the median. If you're surrounded by people who have more money than you, you won't feel like you have enough. The relative amount of money is what matters.

4. More choice is not intrinsically more desirable. Do you really need to be able to choose from 20 restaurants every night? Probably not. More choices make us nervous about deciding and more likely to regret what we've ultimately settled on. You don't want life dictated to you, but you also don't want to spend your whole life deliberating what-if scenarios.

5. Don't relocate away from a spouse or significant other. The single biggest factor in our happiness, according to many studies, is our sex life. Econ prof Daniel Blanchflower quantifies it: "Going from sex once a month to sex once a week creates a big jump in happiness." Caveat for the adventurous: Sex needs to be with a single, consistent partner to confer bigtime benefits.

6. Keep your commute short. There's a huge psychic cost to joining the suburban crawl. "You think you're moving out to the suburbs because it's better for your kids, but in some cities, you're never going to see your kids because you're always in your car," says Wendy Waters, founder of the blog All About Cities.

7. Seek diverse populations for a richer life. Bigger cities are often among the most homogenous. Ethnic diversity and racial differences now are not as pronounced as economic and educational differences. Housing costs are pushing out nearly everyone but the rich from the most popular cities.

8. Make a decision to improve the world. "The key to solving this problem," says Florida, "is not to beat up Boston and San Francisco, but to make second-tier cities attractive."

In large part, this is a government problem. Pay attention to cities such as Columbus, Ohio, where mayor Michael Coleman has a vision that embraces diversity. Or Madison, Wisconsin, where there's a network of investors working to promote technology innovations.

You can find meaning in community by helping promote diversity and creativity. You can help build new models for cities that make room for people with diverse ideas and income levels. We can't fix everything in the world. But we can live our life in sync with our values.