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This Personality Trait Will Help You Live Longer and Be Happier

DISCIPLINE STRATEGY® Blog by Timothy L. Coomer, PhD

Lessons on applying scientific research to solve real life challenges within a framework called DISCIPLINE: [Decide] [Investigate] [Sort] [Conceive] [Implement] [Loop] [Intensify] [Notice] [Enjoy]

People who score high in the personality trait called conscientiousness seem to have good things happen in their life. In this blog, I’ll explain this trait, share some interesting research-based insights, and explain how you can measure your conscientiousness. Most importantly, whether you score high or low in conscientiousness, I’ll lay out a plan on how to mimic and leverage the habits of a highly conscientious person.

What is Conscientiousness?

You may have heard of the Big Five or HEXACO personality models. Both are used to support academic research and both include a measure of conscientiousness. I use HEXACO as the basis for the personality assessment I developed called MyPersonality® (https://disciplinestrategy.com/my-personality/).

A personality trait is typically defined as the tendency to think, feel, and behave in a consistent manner across time and in different situations.

Conscientiousness is just one of the six traits (Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, eXtraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Openness) but it is the trait with the most predicative power. Let’s look at the research that utilizes conscientiousness to predict behavior and outcomes.

Research: Conscientiousness and Health Across the Life Course

Link: http://bit.ly/DSBLOG_Conscientiousness_Health

The study highlights two characteristics of someone who is high in conscientiousness. First, they follow socially prescribed norms and rules regarding impulse control. Second, they tend to be goal directed, like to make plans, and are able to delay gratification.

It is precisely this combination of “following the rules” and “having a plan” that lead to synergistic health benefits. Conscientious people make decisions that decrease their chances of financial distress and divorce. Both of those major life stressors have been shown to result in poor health and decreased longevity.

Conscientious people also tend to belong to social organizations (clubs, churches, social connected groups). This higher level of social connectivity has been shown to improve health and longevity.

Takeaway: Whether or not you score high on conscientiousness, you can choose behaviors that follow societal norms, show a high level of responsibility (the buck really does stop with you), connect with social resources (church, social groups, clubs).

Research: The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis

Link: http://bit.ly/DSBLOG_Conscientiousness_JobPerformance

This is a classic, highly referenced, study completed in 1991. A meta-analysis pools data from a large number of other studies. The purpose of this analysis was to see how the five personality traits (everything that HEXACO includes except for honesty-humility) predict job performance.

Job performance was defined as job proficiency, training proficiency, and personnel data. The study looked at five occupations – professionals, police, managers, sales, and skilled/semi-skilled.

The study found that only conscientiousness shows consistent relationship to all the criteria across all the occupations. The authors explain their findings as follows:

“The most significant finding in the study relates to the conscientiousness dimensions. It was found to be a consistently valid predictor for all occupational groups studied and for all criterion types. Thus, this aspect of personality appears to tap traits which are important to the accomplishment of work tasks in all jobs. That is, those individuals who exhibit traits associated with a strong sense of purpose, obligation, and persistence generally perform better than those who do not.”

Takeaway: No matter your job or your current level of satisfaction with it – you should demonstrate the traits of a conscientious person. You should show up on time ready to work, maintain an engaged and positive attitude, and when you are challenged you should push hard with perseverance and get past the challenge. This will help you build your conscientiousness muscle and lead to the best possible outcomes.

My Thoughts

I am a strong believer that you can choose to act like a highly conscientious person. These behaviors are not hard to figure out. It would be much more difficult for an introverted person to choose to be extroverted – that could create stress. But choosing to do the “right things” is a choice you can start making today. 

P.S. If you want to start now using the DISCIPLINE STRATEGY, check out this offer to gain instant access to the online DISCIPLINE STRATEGY video course and receive a signed copy of DISCIPLINE STRATEGY.