Say, you are thinking of doing an MBA and deciding whether or not to pursue the Exec MBA at Wharton program. Should you spend a lot of time thinking about the option before you even get accepted? What if your chances of getting accepted are fairly low? Additionally, if you end up deciding that it’s not for you, you will not waste the time, money, and energy associated with the application process. Moreover, if you do get accepted, you will have precious little time to make a carefully evaluated decision, as typically in these situations it’s the other party that takes a long time, whereas your decision is kindly requested to be quite prompt. On the other hand, there are many disadvantages to thinking it through too early: you might get yourself all worked up and excited, only to find out that you’ve been rejected; often, you have limited information before the other party has made their decision; you might be wasting time thinking through the many alternatives which will never even present themselves. Finally, some people might not want to do the “pre” evaluations being afraid to jinx their chances.
Examples of these “unlikely future decisions” abound. What to say if you were proposed to? Would you accept a mission to Mars? Would you go to grad school if you got a stipend? Would you change your life style for that wonderful new job? Basically, whenever there is a lengthy and therefore costly selection process which is difficult for you to influence directly, you have to either make your decision up front, based on partial information and then act as if you’ve been selected, or “keep your options open” and then risk ending up in an uncomfortable position of having to make life-changing choices under pressure and time constraints.
How do you do it?