Conscientiousness is not just about getting to a job interview or board meeting on time in a freshly ironed suit and polished shoes. It's a fundamental personality trait—one of the Big Five—that influences whether people 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; people high in this trait are disciplined, high-achieving, and dependable. Yet the off-the-charts conscientious may court perfectionism because their sights are set too high. The extremely conscientious are less spontaneous, less flexible, and more stubborn. They may also suffer more than the less conscientious under conditions of extreme stress. How one fares as a conscientious person may be determined by how well they can stay in control of a stressful situation.
What Is Conscientiousness?
Are You Conscientious?
The conscientious person is a good scout, boy or girl. This person is always prepared, reliable, careful and attentive, attends to tasks without delay, and prefers an orderly schedule. On the flip side, a less conscientious person perpetuates disorder and may well avoid tasks that demand action. People with a conscientious personality do well in professions that require attention to detail and goal-directed behavior—for example, medical physicians and airline pilots. We can all gain from adopting more attentive behaviors, as the conscientious among us tend to enjoy good health and well-being, along with loads of productivity.