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Why the Conscientious Mind Is a Successful Mind

Why the Conscientious Mind Is a Successful Mind

Douglas Hostetter was a conscientious objector to war who found himself faced with the dilemma of having to fulfill his military obligation during the Vietnam War in 1966. As a conscientious objector to war, Douglas refused to carry or use a weapon or participate in any of the violence of war. Instead, he opted to serve by teaching English to Vietnamese children. He also opted to live outside the heavily guarded walls of the American camps. He lived in a bungalow completely exposed to enemy forces. He had no gate, walls or weapons to defend himself. He insisted on fulfilling his service in a non-violent manner and was able to dedicate himself to providing quality education to surrounding Vietnamese villages on his terms.[1]

    Being tagged a conscientious person, on the surface, seems to like it would be a pretty good way to be classified. But the truth is that those who truly commit to living a life of conscientiousness subject themselves to a lifetime of sacrifice and to the possibilities of being ostracized and misunderstood.

    A Conscientious Life Is a Fulfilled Life—but Not Necessarily a Happy One

    Many personality psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions that comprise a person’s personality. Experts call them the “Big 5”.[2] These are a set of five broad personality traits and include: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.

    Conscientiousness as defined by Psychology Today is:[3]

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    “…a fundamental personality trait that influences whether people set and keep long-range goals, deliberate over choices or behave impulsively, and take seriously obligations to others.”

    Conscientiousness is the character trait of being deliberate, careful, meticulous and vigilant. The presence of conscientiousness is the fundamental personality trait and determinant that influences people to set and systematically chase goals. It is what makes people keep their word, fulfill their obligations and remain steadfast and loyal in the face of opposition.

    In other words, it is the ability to live intentionally.

    The Conscientious Mind Is a Strong Mind

    How do you know if you are conscientious or not? A person with low levels of conscientiousness can be described as easily distracted, unfocused, unmotivated, spontaneous and is often called “flighty” and “all over the place.” If you find yourself constantly failing to achieve your personal goals or quitting projects midway through—you may need to work to live a more conscientious fashion.

    The absence of conscientiousness is a key contributor to the absence of success. Becoming more conscientious requires an organized and industrious mind.

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    Organization and living an orderly life is a predictor in whether or not you achieve what it is you want in life. Having things neat, tidy and well organized keeps your mind neat, tidy, organized and focused. Establishing routines and sticking to them as much as possible is a great way to bring order to your life.

    When working to become more organized, be careful not to over do it. Placing routine and order as a top priority leads to perfectionism, anxiety and other counterproductive attitudes. Put yourself on a schedule and get organized—but don’t go overboard.

    Industriousness is associated with tenacity and grit. It is the passion and perseverance needed to achieve long-term goals. Industrious people are often described as achievement/goal-oriented, disciplined, efficient, purposeful, and competent. They are productive, not busy. They chase their goals and live life intentionally and methodically work hard to achieve their destiny.

    Equipping with the Conscientious Mind

    Conscientious people have several common habits that are worth studying. Here are five lessons we can learn from the masters of conscientiousness:

    1. Think Deeper Before You Act

    The conscientious mind always evaluates the pros and cons of a situation and considers the consequences of their actions. They exercise impulse control and work to act versus merely reacting. They count the cost before they undertake an endeavor and give their word.

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    Before launching a business, a conscientious person will do extensive amounts of research and ensure they have the appropriate capital and resources in place before they dive in and begin. They understand the market space, their brand, their customers and know the type of people they need to hire in order to be successful. Their business succeeds and thrives because of preparation, planning and diligence; not luck.

    2. Commit to Promises

    Because the conscientious think before they act, they are able to commit to things they know they can deliver. They provide exactly what they promise. They consider the cost before they make a promise and then dogmatically work to do what they say they are going to do.

    If you promise your best friend you are going to help them move on a specific weekend, that is precisely what you should do. But before you commit to helping your friend, you should first ensure that you are available for the date and duration of time they need you. You should add it to your calendar and consider that date, time and task non-negotiable. You should show up when you said you would, work hard and fully deliver on that promise.

    3. Don’t Rely on Mental Notes

    Taking mental notes is great and we all do it. But there is one major problem with using your mental notes to recall information—you won’t remember it. Conscientious people write things down. They add dates to their calendar. They are schedulers and note takers. They intentionally make jotting notes a part of their routine and standard operating procedure. Read more about why Human Brains Aren’t Designed To Remember Things.

    4. Take Breaks and Carry On

    Take rest, regroup and restart. But don’t ever quit. Quitting is not an option. Remember, in order to be successful you need drive, determination and a stubborn will. You have to have fight, grit and a scrappy attitude to be who you truly can be.[4]

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    If you have watched The Hacksaw Ridge, you would have heard of Desmond T. Doss. He epitomizes the type of fight, tenacity and strength of will the truly conscientious have. Desmond was a combat medic serving in WWII and his heroic actions, driven by his value system, led him to perform acts of heroism during the Battle of Okinawa. He became the first ever conscientious objector in US history to win the medal of honor. And he did it without ever firing a shot.

    5. Take Responsibility for Problems

    A conscientious person is not a coward nor a victim. They take responsibility for their part in failures and don’t run from problems. They stand flat-footed and stare issues in the eye. And then they devise a plan and attack. They are brave, tough and resourceful. They seek out solutions to their problems and refuse to “sweep things under the rug” and blame others.

    Say if you have a report due at work and you realize it’s going to be late because you don’t have the necessary input from your colleagues. You apologize to your boss and give him a new time that the report will be due while taking full responsibility for not getting the input on time. You work with your colleagues to expeditiously get the input you need, and do whatever you have to do to ensure that you deliver on your promise and meet the new deadline.

    A Conscientious Life Is Not Easy, but Is Worth It

    Conscientiousness is an act of one’s will. It is intentional and requires purposeful actions, an organized mind and an industrious attitude.

    By internalizing and embracing the five key habits of conscientious people, you set yourself up to be a reliable, productive and wildly successful best version of yourself.

    Reference

    [1]Civilian Public Service.org: Doug Hostetter
    [2]Very Well: The Big 5 Personality Traits
    [3]Psychology Today: Conscientiousness
    [4]YouTube: Conscientiousness

    More by this author

    Anna Chui

    Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2018

    How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

    How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

    I was weeping in bed for the third time that week and I’ve never been a crier. But eight months after having my daughter, and four months after going back to work, the motivation and energy I’d originally felt returning to my job had completely subsided and I’d hit a wall of fatigue and exhaustion of epic proportions.

    As I sat there red faced and sobbing in my pajamas (a great look for me), my poor husband laid there staring at the wall, not sure what to say at this point. He’d already told me I should leave my job multiple times during previous crying sessions. But instead of feeling relieved by his blessing, it only made me feel guiltier and cry even more.

    I could never quit, I thought to myself. What if he’d resent me for not bringing in income eventually? I was afraid of being perceived as lazy. Plus we live in an area of the country that pretty much requires dual incomes to live comfortably. How could I leave a steady paycheck and put that kind of pressure on him? Plus I had some people’s dream job! Why couldn’t I just be more grateful!

    So I cried. Because I felt trapped. I wondered how to find motivation because I felt so tired but couldn’t not be a mom, or work, or keep showing up in my life. But I felt like I was failing at all of it and in that moment I just wanted to disappear.

    Burnt out? You’re not alone.

    Have you been there–so burnt out and exhausted that it’s hard to remember a time when you were bright eyed and optimistic, motivated to take on the world?

    If you’re feeling unmotivated, tired and lost, and have still found your way to this article, I already know two things about you:

    • You’re more motivated than you think you are; and
    • You’re going to come out on top.

    How do I know this? Because you’re burnt out enough to read an article about burn out but you still found the motivation to find it and read it. You’re actively taking action to stay motivated, which actually means you are motivated! Yay you!

    Now that we’ve established you are motivated to get to a more energized place, let’s get down to the practical strategies I applied to pull myself out of my epic rut so you can start applying them to your own life ASAP.

    How I find motivation with “The Princess Bride” Strategy

    When I think about my experience with burn out, I can’t help but get a visual of when the hero Wesley is declared “mostly dead” in the classic 80’s movie The Princess Bride.[1]

    (If you haven’t seen the Princess Bride, keep reading because it’s not critical to understanding the strategies. But, also, it’s a classic, please see the movie! Sounds like you could use a break anyway!)

    In case you haven’t seen the movie, let’s set the scene: Our hero Wesley is flat on his back, seemingly lifeless with heavy limbs and no strength left in his body after being tortured to (almost) dead. Hope is bleak. It this point it seems impossible he has any fight left in him to take on his nemesis Prince Humperdink and rescue his lady love Buttercup.

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    But with the remaining air in his lungs, he mutters two words: True love.

    This leads us to the first strategy for finding motivation even when you’re completely burnt out:

    1. Focus on your true love

    Our hero Wesley had one thing that motivated all of his actions, Princess Buttercup: His true love.

    If you really think about it, the same is true for you. Whether it’s an actual person (or people) or a passion, remember your WHY.

    What is your reason for rising from this rut? Who or what was your motivation for reading this article? There’s something driving you to not stay stuck. There are some people who are counting on you or some mission that’s bigger than you that provide a clear purpose for everything you do.

    All of your efforts should be focused on your true love and getting back to being the person who can show up for that noble cause.

    Knowing your true love is your compass. Whenever you’re feeling lost or uninspired, remembering the people or passion that make you uniquely you gives you that sense of purpose that you need to feel motivated to rise, even when you feel like you have nothing left.

    In my case, I had to eventually realize that my true love (my husband) wanted his true love back–not this sobbing, miserable zombie I’d become. Like the old adage goes, “Happy wife, happy life.”

    As a bonus, you can find out more about this point here: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    When I realized that my complete lack of motivation and burn out was really affecting him, I knew it was time to get to the root of what was really wrong which leads us to step 2:

    2. Identify your true adversary (and focus your limited energy there)

    There’s always someone or something that has to be defeated in every hero’s journey. In the case of our hero Wesley, he had to defeat Prince Humperdink in order to rescue his true love Buttercup. This singular mission helped him reserve his energy for the most critical moment, when he finally met Humperdink face to face.

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    In the case of your burn out, there is most likely a root cause that has to be addressed in order to reclaim your motivation. Getting clear on what that is will prevent you from running around trying to fix every aspect of your life and allow you to simply focus on the one or two things that are really the reason everything’s feeling so hard.

    When you’re truly burnt out it’s likely that it’s negatively impacted multiple areas of your life so it may feel impossible to identify the root cause of your struggles at the moment. I know I felt that way.

    My health was the worst it had ever been, my social life was bleak because I didn’t have the energy for fun or making plans, my career was stressing me out, being a new mom was hard… and so on.

    Here’s my advice on how to get the root cause of your burn out: Do a gut check. What are the first 3 reasons that you think have caused you to burn out? What were the first things that popped into your mind? Write them down!

    If you’re stuck, you can also rank each of the following categories of your life from 1-10 (10 being awesome, 1 being awful):

    • Career
    • Family
    • Friends
    • Money
    • Contribution
    • Personal Growth
    • Spiritual Life
    • Health
    • Romance
    • Fun

    The aspects of your life with the lowest numbers should help you identify the true root cause of your burn out.

    Ask yourself, why is that area a 1? One way to really figure out what’s wrong is to imagine what a 10 would be to you in that area. For example, if you rank your job a 2, what would a 10 be to you? Describe it in as much detail as possible and compare it to your current situation.

    For example, maybe your 10 job would be remote but your current job forces you to commute and travel constantly. This has the potential to affect every area of your life but really, the solution to most of your woes is to get a job that lets you work from home and doesn’t require so much travel.

    When you’re clear on what’s not working, you can start to see a way out, which leads us to step 3:

    3. Remember you’re the hero

    It would have been easy for Wesley to play the victim. After all, he literally was tortured to death and endured unimaginable pain in the Pit of Despair.

    But instead of focusing on what had happened to him in the past, as soon as Wesley was brought back to life, he focused on what needed to be done in order to get his girl. He remembered he was the hero, despite how things may have felt or appeared in the moment.

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    When we’re burnt out, it’s easy to want to play the blame game or feel victimized by our circumstances. I’ve been there.

    The thing is that isn’t motivating because it prevents us from having any agency or creative point of view on our situation.

    If anything is going to change in our life, we have to always remember that we’re the hero of our own stories. Despite what circumstances come at us, our responses are 100% our responsibility.

    In my case, I knew the commute and stress from my job was one of the major sources of my burn out. I also knew something was wrong with my health but didn’t have any answers or solutions yet. What was clear was that the stress I was feeling wasn’t going to get any better if I kept doing what I was doing.

    What I really wanted to do was leave my job and start my own business from home. But it felt too selfish. Even though my husband told me to leave my job, for some reason I still felt the obligation to make myself a living sacrifice for our family.

    But one night after weeks of having to take naps in the mother’s room at work just to make it through the day, it dawned on me that I was the reason I was miserable.

    I’d convinced myself that my husband didn’t mean what he said, that I had to stay at my job for him; but the truth was I had to give myself permission to make the changes I needed to make to be happier. He’d already done that! The only thing trapping me was… me.

    I had to save myself. He couldn’t fix my health. He couldn’t resign for me. I had to do the work and perhaps I was using him as an excuse because in admitting I needed a break or help, in my mind I was admitting weakness.

    I was afraid to be that vulnerable and to ask for and expect his complete love and support when I wasn’t “working for it”. I was more comfortable playing the victim of my circumstances and falling on my noble sword because somehow in my mind it made me feel strong.

    Can you relate? If so, spend time to answer these questions:

    • If you’re honest with yourself, have you been playing the Hero or the Victim of your story?
    • Claiming your role of hero, what’s your next play?
    • What are you secretly wanting permission for that you need to grant yourself?

    Once you take complete responsibility for your circumstances and for saving yourself, there’s another key thing you’ll need:

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    4. Accept help from your friends

    Our hero Wesley was “mostly dead” and unable to walk, feed himself or hold his head up when his friends Inigo and Fezzik found him. If it wasn’t for them, he would have died in the Pit of Despair. But they held him up, found Miracle Max, advocated for a remedy and carried him on their backs until he could stand on his own again.

    My story is no different. In order to find my motivation again and recover from burn out it required me to rely on my husband more than I ever had before. It also required doctors, life coaches and the support of friends and family.

    It required me to give up my attachment to being tough and not needing help. But at the end of the day, I figured out my happiness and being fully honest with myself about my limitations was the only way to have what I really wanted: Myself back.

    Sometimes showing weakness is the ultimate show of strength.

    You are the hero and you’re also human. None of us can do this on our own, nor are we supposed to. When you’re burnt out, it’s important to ask for help and seek out a support system while you find your way back to yourself.

    Final thoughts

    Remember, burn out happens to all of us from time to time and we just can’t get motivated.

    Sometimes, finding your motivation again requires making a huge life change, as in my case. But sometimes, it can be fixed with a new habit as simple as shutting down your computer, putting your phone out of sight and giving yourself some down time.

    My burn out was severe and it took overhauling my entire life to dig my way out. But I’m so much more motivated, re-energized and happier for it.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities on your plate and with all of things you’re thinking you need to change, remember to focus on the ONE thing that’s going to make the biggest impact. You can do it too:

    How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

    My thing was leaving my full time job. Which, after months stressing about it, was accomplished in one 10 minute conversation with my manager. And as soon as I did it I instantly felt more motivated and relieved.

    Save your precious energy for only doing the things that truly matter right now and your motivation will start coming back sooner than you thought possible.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1]The Princess Bride, Reiner et al., 1987

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