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Conscientiousness is a fundamental personality trait—one of the Big Five—that reflects the tendency to be responsible, organized, hard-working, goal-directed, and to adhere to norms and rules. Like the other core personality factors, it has multiple facets; conscientiousness comprises self-control, industriousness, responsibility, and reliability.

A conscientious person is good at self-regulation and impulse control. This trait influences whether you will set and keep long-range goals, deliberate over choices, behave cautiously or impulsively, and take obligations to others seriously. (The other Big Five personality traits are extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism.) Conscientiousness is generally a key ingredient for success—in love as well as work. It's also a major predictor of health, well-being, and longevity.

Understanding Conscientiousness

Conscientious people are proactive in making decisions big and small. For example, the conscientious don't just set goals, they set a timeline for meeting each goal. People with a conscientious personality do well in jobs that require attention to detail, such as surgeons and pilots; and it's no surprise that the conscientious are less likely to wind up behind bars.

How does a conscientious person act?

These people are not impulsive. They are planners and they abide by schedules. They also do not miss bill payments, they take notes, keep their promises, and show up on time. They engage in self-care through exercise, proper sleep, and a healthy diet. They are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking and heavy drinking.

How can you become more conscientious?

One technique is mental contrasting, by which individuals imagine a goal, the path to the goal, and obstacles likely to be encountered along the way. Such a process can help people choose feasible goals and boost their commitment to achieving them. Both nature and nurture affect this personality trait, and people do become more conscientious as they age.

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The Link Between Conscientiousness and Success
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Conscientious individuals tend to be high achievers in academics and in professional life. On the job, along with high productivity, they garner higher earnings, good relationships, work satisfaction, and achievement. In addition, the conscientious tend to land more leadership positions.

Do conscientious people persevere more than others?

Diligent and thorough people will stick to a problem until it is solved. If they fail, they will keep trying. They are not necessarily smarter than anyone else in the room, nor will they execute a task better than others. They will, however, plug away toward a successful resolution.

Are conscientious people more rule-abiding?

People high in conscientiousness do abide by certain rules of living. They are, for example, more likely to drive at the speed limit and take responsibility for problems that come up. This also applies to relationships and the obligations that come with them.

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