If I had to guess which personality trait best predicts a long, healthy life, I’d probably guess something that relates to joy or creativity or curiosity. So I was surprised to see that the characteristic that is most closely tied to longevity is conscientiousness (out of the “big five” personality traits that psychologists typically look at — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism).
Conscientious people are more likely to recover from a serious illness (like a heart attack), and not just because they are better about taking their medications: Conscientious patients who are put on placebo medications live longer than their not-so-together counterparts on real meds.
When I really think about it, this isn’t such a surprising finding after all. There is a lot more to health and longevity than taking your pills—we also have to adhere to our doctor’s recommendations for diet and exercise and lifestyle.
Here’s the really good news: conscientiousness can be cultivated. When we create and hone our good habits, we become more conscientious in general.
If you know WHAT to do to become more conscientious, but are unsure of HOW to do it, check out my FREE online class: Cracking the Habit Code. For example, if you know that you should work on being more timely, but you aren’t sure how to get in the habit of being consistently on time, learn how to cultivate this habit. You may live longer because of it!
Take Action: Identify an area of your life where you could be more diligent, and commit to cultivating conscientiousness in that one particular arena. Do you need to floss more consistently? Keep your desk clear or the kitchen clean? Be better about maintaining friendships? Make a resolution now.
Join the Discussion: Have you recently become more conscientious in a particular area this year? Share in the comments!