The world could use a little more conscientiousness. It's up to you to actually show up.
In 2015 especially, there's a profound emphasis on multitasking, rapid response and constant communication that most of us have lost the pure ability to think carefully and act intentionally. Carefulness and thoughtfulness can go a long way.
Conscientiousness. The term gets thrown around often in job descriptions, personality assessments and self-improvement tutorials, but what does it truly mean? How can we strive to master it? To be vigilant and aware requires an ability to check in with one's own conscience, beliefs and spiritual fulcrum. The omnipresent distractions of daily life may attempt to get in the way, but it's incredibly important that we at least try to become more present, thoughtful individuals.
According to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber, conscientiousness is related to the idea of consciousness and getting to know ourselves. "The reason a person wants to show up for the tasks, responsibilities and possibilities in a more empowered and aligned manner is the same reason we tend to want to feel like we are being ourselves from day to day," he says. But in order to be more conscientious, we must gain a self-awareness that is hard for many to attain.
Achieving this awareness and remaining present in each moment relies heavily on our ability to clear our minds and focus on the task at hand. This may require some training, self-reflection and meditation.
Meditation To move, create and connect with intention, you must center your energy, energy and reflection expert Joy Holland says. "There’s a necessary shift from fear/reactive mode to trust/creative mode. Once your physical body feels peace, the mind can then relax and reap the physical and emotional benefits."
Despite technology's ability to distract us from taking a moment to relax, there are some useful apps that can help navigate your meditation. Headspace, for instance, will guide you via podcast through easy meditations on various subjects — from how to fall asleep to how to appreciate your food. The app will set reminders to keep you aware of your progress, and the tracks are narrated by Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, who is quite relaxing to hear through your earbuds. Another app, GPS for the Soul, utilizes your phone's camera to measure your stress level and will help you modify your anxiety through breathing exercises, calming images and music.
Think about putting a drop of lavender oil on your pillow while you're meditating before bed, as it's been proven to improve sleep quality and battle insomnia.
Mindfulness According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, funding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness means "paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
The need for mindfulness is more important than ever but also difficult to achieve, as our society is constantly bombarded with distractions, a collective anxiety and a lack of concentration.
"Slow down your response time to everything," psychotherapist Sarri Gilman says. "This allows you to give a more thoughtful response to others, and it also stops you from wasting time — yours and others." It's important to check in with yourself throughout the day, taking time to truly think. Gilman continues, "It seems that thinking time has left our culture, but taking time to think is actually very important for being conscientious. Being conscientious is about the quality of what you are doing, it's about how you do things, the standards you have for yourself. The quality of what you do is a long-term investment in who you are, impacting the relationships you build and the reputation you have for your work."
In moments of deep reflection it's also useful to think about the people in your life for whom you are thankful. Actually taking the time to write down whom you're thankful for can create positive energy and self-reflection. Such a gratitude exercise can then encourage you to actually act upon your thankfulness in a conscientious, thoughtful manner.
Productivity Conscientiousness is often associated with self-discipline, achievement and productivity. For some, a simple to-do list might help with organization and systematic thinking. For others, it's more valuable to develop self-confidence, use mantras and set aside time to recharge.
Research shows that multitasking lowers productivity by up to 40% and increases errors and stress. Sometimes it's more efficient to take tasks one step at a time. Decluttering your digital life can also help with productivity. Organize your smartphone, upgrade software or think about cord-cutting. Spending time to cleanse your digital persona can help you achieve the organization goals you've set for yourself.
And despite your overwhelming connection to your technology, think about letting go just a little bit. Start with note-taking. Yes, typing away at your keyboard seems quick and productive, but writing down and visualizing your thoughts on a piece of paper can help you make connections you wouldn't otherwise, and doing this forces you to pay attention to what you're writing versus mindlessly taking notes on your laptop.
Being conscientious isn't just about being present, though. It's about thinking intently about the things and people surrounding you. Whether you're holding the door open for someone or giving a warm welcome to the barista who serves you day after day, your awareness of others, as well as your gratitude toward them is something you shouldn't overlook.
But, we often do.
While it may seem simple and easy to accomplish, becoming a more outwardly conscientious person is often hindered by our preoccupation with our own thoughts. This isn't necessarily a lifestyle change, but a concentration on the little things you can do to improve your communication with others, your appreciation of them and your overall attitude.
A conscientious coworkerEconomist and author Tyler Cowen, in his book Average Is Over, said that conscientiousness in the workplace is more important than ever. "Team production makes the quality of 'conscientiousness' a more important quality in laborers. Managers need workers who are reliable. If you have a team of five, one unreliable worker is wrecking the work of four others. If you have a team of 25, one unreliable worker can negate the work effects of 24 others. Managers will stay away from possibly destructive labor, and they will put a lot of care into building and managing their teams.”
Close your eyes. Repeat what you just read. Do you remember? Were you paying attention? If so, you passed the test.
The little things you can do While these little things may seem obvious, you'd be surprised by the amount of people who are unaware, and don't perform these small acts of kindness:
Open the door for coworkers
Give your subway seat to an older passenger
Pick up some trash around your neighborhood
Let that car merge into the traffic (despite your desire to yell some unkind words)
Ask your friend how his/her day is, and actively listen to the response
Fold up the laundry even if it's not your turn
Watch the kids while your significant other gets some rest
Try to understand someone else's opinion, especially if you disagree
Call up an old acquaintance just because
Becoming a more conscientious person can have profound effects on your career success, longevity and overall well-being.
Psychology tells us that there are five main traits that inform our personality: Agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness to experience. A study conducted at Rice University found that there's a positive correlation between conscientiousness and grade point average, while none of the other four personality traits had any correlation. So, students: If you're a little bit more conscientious in your every day, you might just earn a higher grade on your next exam.
There are health benefits, too. Another study found that those folks who are more conscientious are able to deal with stress more effectively, pay more attention to their diets and can maintain a normal exercise schedule despite daily hassles. More specifically, order and industriousness were the two facets of conscientiousness that played a major part.
And according to these researchers, when looking for a spouse, conscientiousness should be at the top of you non-negotiables.