The “Big 5” personality traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism, or OCEAN. The Big 5 is considered by many contemporary psychologists to be a reliable way to describe differences in personalities and is arguably the basis of modern personality research.
To be conscientious is to be organized and self-disciplined. Conscientious people often feel guilty if play exceeds work. They prefer to aim for achievement and to plan their days as opposed to living spontaneously. This ‘commitment to duty’ becomes obsessive in individuals with high conscientiousness. People who are high in conscientiousness prefer order and can be stubborn to a fault.
Conversely, those who are low in conscientiousness are generally more flexible and spontaneous. They are sometimes perceived as being less reliable and flaky. Low conscientious individuals have a more carefree attitude and tend to be forgetful and disorderly.
Self-discipline can be associated with maturity, and studies have shown that young adults become more conscientious as they age, indicating a correlation. It is unclear if this is a natural process or a direct result of increasing responsibilities as one enters adulthood. Overprotective parents are known to raise irresponsible adults, and if overprotected children aren’t encouraged to take on responsibility, they may never learn true self-discipline.
This isn’t to say that low conscientiousness is always a negative trait, many people prefer to live spontaneously and find meaning in doing so. Furthermore, an ‘all work, no play’ attitude is unhealthy because it can get in the way of enjoying life and forming meaningful relationships.