How to Be More Conscientious

How to Be More Conscientious When You Really Don’t Feel Like It

Conscientiousness is one of the big five personality traits in the personality model most commonly used by psychologists. The five traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, which you can remember with the acronym OCEAN. While there is no single addictive personality, there is one pattern that’s more common among people with substance use issues: high neuroticism and low conscientiousness.


Why Bother?

What’s important about conscientiousness is that it appears to be a protective factor against substance use and addiction. Even people who score relatively high in neuroticism—which makes them especially vulnerable to mental health challenges like depression and anxiety—are less likely to have substance use issues if they also have high conscientiousness.

Conscientiousness is divided into six facets: competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation. Highly conscientious people tend to be goal-oriented, responsible, organized, and hardworking. To people with moderate or low conscientiousness, these traits don’t sound the least bit appealing. They bring to mind a caricature of a tight-wound perfectionist, someone who is a slave to their own routine and, perhaps worst of all, completely devoid of imagination.

As with any trait, conscientiousness can be a bad thing when taken to an extreme, but if you struggle with substance use issues and commonly co-occurring issues, like a mood disorder, learning to be a bit more conscientious can do you a lot of good. Since it’s a personality trait, it will only change slowly and with persistent effort, so there’s little risk turning into a repressed conformist overnight. The following are a few suggestions for nurturing your inner Hermione Granger.


Focus on Specifics

First, it’s helpful to keep in mind that conscientiousness, more than any other personality trait, is linked to specific behaviors. That is, even if you are not a highly conscientious person, you can learn to behave more conscientiously in things that really matter to you. For example, the artist Chuck Close has famously said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” If something matters to you, being more conscientious in your habits can help you do it better.

Start by identifying your priorities and focus on one or two specific behaviors that support those priorities. So, for example, maybe you want a better relationship with your kids but you frequently fail to follow through on your promises. Your specific focus for a while might be to do what you promise, no matter what. Look at the factors that prevent you from following through and come up with a plan to help you succeed. A therapist is often a huge asset in this process.


Structure Your Day

If you’re not very conscientious, it may be too much to ask to schedule every minute of your day Ben Franklin style. However, there are two concepts that can help you rein in the chaos: structure and priorities. First, decide what your priorities are and give them a definite time in your day. So, for example, you might decide your top priority is to attend a 12-Step meeting at 5 p.m. The rest of your activities go somewhere around that. We typically don’t get to more than three priorities in a day, so choose wisely.

Structure is also important because it helps automate healthy activities so you don’t have to expend thought or willpower on them. It may be a good idea to start by establishing a consistent bedtime and a consistent wake-up time. This ensures your hours of operation are more consistent from day-to-day and it also ensures you get enough sleep, which makes everything else easier. Once that part of your routine is in place, you can add a new element, perhaps exercising or studying at a certain time.


Follow the Two-Minute Rule

The two-minute rule is one of the most effective tactics against procrastination and letting things pile up in general. The rule is that if something will take less than two minutes to do, just do it now. Does the dishwasher need to be loaded? Just do it now. Does someone need a quick favor at work? Just do it now. You’ll be amazed how much more you get done and all those nagging little tasks won’t be taking up mental space.


Leverage Your Empathy

People who struggle with substance use and mental health issues typically have relatively low conscientiousness but they often have a high level of empathy and compassion. You can use this to your advantage when you’re trying to be more conscientious. After all, much of conscientiousness is really about being considerate and not just following arbitrary rules. For example, if you’re always late, put yourself in the place of the person who is waiting for you. If you have trouble following through on your promises, imagine what it’s like to have someone let you down. At work, don’t think about getting that raise; focus on helping out your coworkers. Social connection often motivates us when more abstract incentives fail.


Improving your conscientiousness is a bit of a catch-22: changing a personality trait takes persistent effort, but if you have low conscientiousness, persistent effort is especially challenging. In a way, just sticking to a plan is an exercise in conscientiousness in itself. A therapist can be a huge help in creating a plan and sticking to it, as can participating in group therapy or a 12-Step program. Entering a treatment program can be especially helpful since your time is more structured in addition to having group and individual therapy sessions.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that a strong recovery from addiction is really about learning the skills to live a better life. Recovery should be an adventure in reaching your full potential. To learn more about our holistic treatment programs, call us at 833-801-LIVE.

Essential Life Skills For Lifelong Recovery

Empathy and Compassion: Living with compassion and empathy is not something many would call an essential life skill. However, in order to be a good human who does good things on earth, empathy and compassion is a must. We are tasked in recovery to always reach out our hands. As the saying in Alcoholics Anonymous goes, “love and tolerance is our code”. We are inherently self centered human beings. After developing an addiction, we tend to be even more selfish. Empathy and compassion are the ways in which we connect with others and step outside of ourselves in order to connect with someone else. Our relationships and connections with people are made deeper by practicing empathy and compassion.

  • Time management: Change is the only constant, it is said, and time is constantly changing. We only have so many waking hours in a day, days in a week, and so on. How we use our time is incredibly important because we’re either wasting it or making the most of it. Learning how to use a calendar, schedule appointments, prioritize activities, and make enough time for self-care in a day are essential life skills.
  • Asking for help: People who have had to make the decision to ask for help in finding treatment understand how life saving this life skill can be. We can’t possible know it all. In order to get things done, we often have to ask for help. Help you help yourself by feeling no shame when it comes to asking for assistance with something.
  • Active listening: We can go our entire lives without really listening to what someone has to say. From instructions to suggestions to someone's expression of their needs, if we don’t actively and reflectively listen we miss out on what is being said.
  • Meditation: Taking time to quiet the mind is more than calming- it helps grow new brain muscle memory, reduces symptoms of stress, reduces intensity of mental health disorders, and radically improves health.
  • Financial Management: Some people never learn how to manage their money. Living in chronic debt or without any money can lead to stress and hardship which could eventually cause someone to relapse. Money comes and goes. Learning how to manage finances for the long term and the short term are essential for reducing stress and creating a sense of security.
  • Healthy Living: Eating organic, having a balanced diet, staying nutritionally well, and having basic cooking skills are all a part of healthy living. Your long term future depends on your physical health as much as it does your mental wellbeing.
  • Communication: communication is a part of everyday life >learning how to communicate honestly, tactfully, and articulately is helpful in every single area of life.

Enlightened Solutions believes that people entering recovery for an addiction are in need of developing or redeveloping essential life skills for life after treatment. If you or a loved one are ready to learn a new way of being, call us today for more information, 833-801-5483.

Is Empathy a Universal Trait?

Empathy is a universal language of recognizing in others what we are able to recognize in ourselves. If I have been through an experience you are describing, I am able to emotionally and intuitively relate to what you are saying. Not only do I understand, I have a deep comprehension of where you are. So to speak, I have walked a mile in your shoes.

One of the most basic human needs, especially in recovery, is to feel understood. Without being addicted to drugs and alcohol, it is hard to understand the depth of addiction. Family members and friends struggle to truly grasp the experience of addiction their loved ones are witnessing. Compassionately, they acknowledge how their loved one suffers, and they sympathize with their experience. Yet, they struggle in developing the empathy needed for validation.

Being in treatment or the rooms of 12 step fellowships offers solidarity in these departments. Walking into a room of like-minded, like-lived people is a sense of relief to many addicts in recovery. In all the world, there is at least one place where they know they will be understood. Someone, at some point in their life has lived through similar trial, tribulation, and even triumph. This sort of fellowship is a keystone in the continuum of recovery.

Is Empathy a Universal Trait?

Is everyone so kind? Research shows that the answer is conditional according to perceived struggle. It might be expected that the people who have suffered the most would have the greatest empathy. Quartz did a social experiment revealing that, at times, those with recent relevant experience were less inclined to have compassion and more inclined to show contempt. For example, one study examined bullying. Participants in the study reacted to two types of people who had overcome bullying. The first coped with the bullying in a way that was defined as successful. The second coped with bullying through violence and lashing out. Compared to people who had not experienced bullying, the people who had were most compassionate toward the successful subject. Yet, for the subject who reacted in violence, people who had experienced bullying themselves were the least compassionate, comparatively. Researchers believe it is a combination of forgetting what it was like, and the ability to overcome such hardships, that turn people cold.

Conclusively, the study reveals an important part of recovery: remembering what it was like. There is no need to stay haunted by one’s past, but rather embrace the humility of recognizing the hardships we have faced. It is important not to lose sight of how far you’ve come because of where you started. We remember that each person’s journey is unique.

Enlightened Solutions offers a spiritual solution to the problem of pervasive drug and alcohol addiction. Our multidisciplinary program offers a holistic approach to healing rooted in twelve step philosophy. It starts with hope. Start your journey to recovery with us. For more information on our treatment programs please call 833-801-5483.