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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes. By and large, people behave consistently when the environment is consistent, but the behavior might not translate across domains. The degree of conscientiousness we bring to a task at our job does not predict how conscientious we'll be about bill paying or other personal matters. It is predictive of how conscientious we'll continue to be in work-related endeavors.
Studies in behavioral genetics have shown that this trait is about half attributable to genetics, and half to the environment in which someone is raised, or to developmental factors that are not presently understood. Anatomically, the prefrontal cortex, site of all executive function, is critical in managing behavior that reflects conscientiousness.
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.
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.
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.
The less conscientious may oversleep, and be late for class or work and avoid tasks that demand action. But being on time is an important trait of the conscientious person. They keep To-Do lists, are usually prepared, attend to tasks without delay, and prefer orderly routine. They are avid note takers and they write first drafts.
Research has found that conscientiousness may mean lower blood pressure, lower rates of diabetes and stroke, fewer joint problems, among other health outcomes. In general, the conscientious person maintains self-care to a higher degree and enjoys a longer life, as well.
If you feel a greater sense of agency in your life, or that you have control over things that happen, you have an internal locus of control. And the things and situations that happen are directly influenced by your skills, abilities, and actions you have taken. People high in conscientiousness have such an internal locus of control.