Major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) positive selection of CD8+ T cells in the thymus requires that T cell antigen receptor (TCR) signaling end in time for cytokines to induce Runx3d, the CD8-lineage transcription factor. We examined the time required for these events and found that the overall duration of positive selection was similar for all CD8+ thymocytes in mice, despite markedly different TCR signaling times. Notably, prolonged TCR signaling times were counter-balanced by accelerated Runx3d induction by cytokines and accelerated differentiation into CD8+ T cells. Consequently, lineage errors did not occur except when MHC I-TCR signaling was so prolonged that the CD4-lineage-specifying transcription factor ThPOK was expressed, preventing Runx3d induction. Thus, our results identify a compensatory signaling mechanism that prevents lineage-fate errors by dynamically modulating Runx3d induction rates during MHC I positive selection.