The planning fallacy: Overcoming the frustration of underestimating how long work takes

Work is important to me, very important. I enjoy doing it, think about how to get more done, and feel antsy if I’m away from it for too long. This includes my work as a scholar and teacher as well as even just work around the house.6521248195_c7b7d4ce3a_b

There is, however, one aspect of work that frustrates me to no end—my inability to predict how long a given project will take to complete. Not only can I not accurately predict how long something will take, I routinely underestimate it—sometimes by a lot.

Looking out my window right now,

Sometimes we have to work on our own lives if we really want to love others

Back in the day, when I was in high school, I heard a sermon on love, and it had the punch line was that we should view ourselves as third in importance, after God and others. Being the clever high-schooler that I was, I wrote “I am 3rd” on my tennis shoes to remind me of the message (and also because tennis shoes cost a lot less back then so writing on them wasn’t a big deal).


Now, getting high schoolers to think of anybody other than themselves is a noble if not perhaps futile cause. However, that message (and hundreds like it that I’ve heard over the years) can overlook an important point about the self and loving others.

If you want to have a meaningful life, should you think about the past, present or future? Yes.

The past gets a bad rap. We’re told to “let go of the past” and “not to live in the past.” Common wisdom roots us in the presence. We’re to live “one day at a time” and “be in the moment.” A recent study, however, suggests that thinking about the past, as well of the future, can give you a more meaningful life.


Generally speaking, having a sense of meaning about life entails understanding why things happen. Life needs to make sense to us. (What is meaning?) As such, part of creating meaning is…

Tony Gill, of the Research on Religion Podcast, interviewed me about the SoulPulse study. We talk about both the long-term goals of SoulPulse as well as more technical methodological. As always, it’s fun to talk to Tony, and he has great questions (and is funny, too).10338745_716362898427298_4828598623355621070_n

List to the podcast here

Tony’s description of it: “On this week’s Research on Religion with Anthony Gill we talk with Brad Wright of UConn on a very interesting sociological study he is doing called “SoulPulse.” Great interview.
But what is more awesome is that you can participate in this study for two short weeks yourself by going to They are very easy and fun surveys. No one calls you and your information isn’t shared for marketing or anything. It is all above-the-board social science.”

Appearance: Interviewed on Research on Religion Podcast
Format: Podcast

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

Maya Angelou

What’s the difference between meaning and purpose in life?

What’s the difference between meaning in life and purpose in life? Over the past several years, I’ve started studying the social-psychological aspects of both meaning and purpose, and I’ve used terms interchangeably. While they are related, even closely so, they are not the same thing, I think. So in this post I would like to explore their relative meaning.

When blog writers start a post with a question, they usually already know the answer. E.g., “Do you want to be more success?” Well, yes, most people probably do. Or, “How can you get rid of the unsightly hair growing on your teeth?” Chances are they already have a product to sell you that will do it. But here I’m asking a question because I would like to know the answer.

Happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness is linked to doing things that express and reflect the self and in particular to doing positive things for others

Roy Baumeister et al. 2013

Meaning is, truly, a first world problem

A “first world problem” is something that people in wealthy countries complain about only because we don’t have more serious problems–like not getting enough containers of dipping sauce with our fast food order or having unheated leather seats in our cars or having a house so big that we need a second wireless router. (A list and video of them). These kinds of complaints serve as ironic pointers to gratitude, which is good. They are also funny, which may even be better. However, they don’t tell the full story about the consequences of living in wealthy countries.

Oishi and Diener. 2013. Residents of Poor Nations Have a Greater  Sense of Meaning in Life Than Residents  of Wealthy Nations. Psychological Science

Oishi and Diener. 2013. Residents of Poor Nations Have a Greater
Sense of Meaning in Life Than Residents
of Wealthy Nations. Psychological Science

It turns out that when it comes to experiencing meaning in life, the first world does have a problem. 

Having a Sense of Purpose Can… Add Serious Years to Your Life

Do you have a sense of purpose for your life? If you have asked yourself this question, it probably came out of a difficult place emotionally–either feeling despair or sadness. And, yes, having a sense of purpose works against these sad feelings. But it does more than that.

It can literally add years to your life….