The idea that our most rational decisions are bred from emotion seems counterintuitive. In some ways, it is: impulsive decisions ruled by emotion aren’t rational. But decisions based only on numbers aren’t rational either.
“Rationality means accomplishing, as best as you can, all of your goals,” Thagard says. “There is empirical evidence now that, beyond a certain amount, money really doesn’t increase happiness—whereas good relationships are a crucial part of living, having a sense of accomplishment and achievement are a crucial part of living. People making a decision to go to graduate school should be balancing all of these things.”
Economists Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman found that money does buy day-to-day emotional well-being, but only up to $75,000.Read more
Jeremy Shinewald, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm mbaMission, has seen Thagard’s balancing act play out firsthand.
“A lot of graduate students think about goals they can write about in their application, but not necessarily goals that are meaningful to them,” Shinewald says. “And then they don’t explore: they arrive on campus, recruiting starts two weeks after they get there, and they’re sucked into a vortex.”
According to Shinewald, when applicants consider an MBA only to pad their wallet or boost their résumé, they tend to regret their decision and take a job they don’t really want. Conversely, those who pursue an interest or passion tend to flourish once they achieve their degree.