What Is The Difference Between Being Careful And Being Cautious?

Not everyone is a naturally born risk taker, and that is perfectly fine. But then how would you describe yourself? Would you say you are a cautious person? Or maybe you would describe yourself as someone who is always careful?

You might have even found that by being careful and cautious, you have gotten far in life and attained many of your goals. It is very well possible that you could improve on those qualities!

Before we are able to work on them, we need to understand what exactly being cautious and being careful is. We should understand the often misunderstood difference between them, and analyze the advantages and disadvantages that either of them bring to the table!

So lets delve right into the the main differences between cautious and carefulness.

What Does Cautious Mean?

The word cautious actually comes from the root word ‘caution’, which means thinking ahead to avoid risks and minimize danger that you might be exposed to. Having a cautious personality trait simply means you spend a lot of your time worrying on how to minimize any risk that may harm you.

Let’s use an example to explain the mindset of a cautious individual.

Assume you are a high-school student, and you have a big exam coming up next week. Per the definition of a cautious person, you will likely be afraid of the exam, since failing it will be harmful to some aspect of your life. Whether your parents will punish you, or that you might not get accepted into your university of choice.

Being cautious is an emotion, closely related to fear. You will start to fear that exam for what it could potentially do to your life should you fail it. This will introduce a lack of confidence as a result of that fear.

Think about how you would walk into the exam. You have spend the last weeks worrying and stressing about it. Now the moment is here, and I can assure you that you’ll be extremely nervous. If you are not able to keep your cool during times of stress, you are more likely to fail this exam.

What Does Careful Mean?

The word careful stems from the root word ‘care’, which means an effort to do things correctly. Having ‘careful’ as one of your character traits essentially means you work through things until you are sure they are done correctly. Let’s use the same example as before .

Assume you are that same highschool student with a big exam coming up. You are a careful person, so what do you do? You will likely look up a lot of past-exam questions, because they will allow you to prepare best for the exam. You will work tirelessly to make sure you are as prepared as possible for that exam.

How would you think you’d be walking into this exam? You know you have done everything you can to prepare. You should be oozing with confidence.

The Difference Between Cautious And Careful

After reading the previous 2 sections, I am sure you are already starting to understand the differences between being cautious and being careful.

Being cautious is an emotion. It means you fear something, and that you will spend a great deal of your time simply worrying about the future, usually without actually taking any action to better prepare yourself. Being cautious will cause you to fear that which you are stressing about.

In contrast to that, being careful is an action. It means you will actually put in tangible effort to minimize any future risk. Being comfortable will make you more confident!

As we can see being cautious and being careful are quite different when we apply them to real life situations. Most people have a blend of the two personalities embedded within them. We can all remember stressing like crazy for our finals in high school, and likely we can also remember studying like crazy for them.

That being said, it was our overly cautious side that caused all this unnecessary stress and worry. It was this side that made it more difficult for us in the long run.

So What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Them?

Being Cautious

As previously discussed, being too cautious can at times paralyze us with fear. Even when we know we have to prepare ourselves, we simply don’t. As a student I have personally experienced these situations and seen many of my friends undergo them as well.

That being said, there still are advantages to being cautious. The stress we experience can be debilitating, as explained above. But if we are able to deal with that stress, we can funnel it into a big motivational drive. I know that I work so much better under stress, and it is my cautious personality that allows me to feel that stress.

It also allows us to put things into perspective. Being cautious will allow us to realize the true importance of the things we do in life. Why did you feel so stressed for those high school final exams? Most likely because they were going to determine a large part of your future life.

Being Careful

The main advantage of being careful, is that you will put maximum effort towards a task or goal that you want to achieve. It is what makes us put in the work, so that we don’t fail.

The main disadvantage that comes with being too careful is when you lack time management skills. Most of us have a lot to do in a day, and spending all your time on one task is just never a good idea. One of the main time management skills is knowing how much time and effort you need to put into a task to get the result you want.

If you know from experience that if you study for 4 days, you will pass your maths exam. Now if you are too careful, you will likely begin studying 2 weeks ahead of your exam. Those extra 10 days could have been spent productively studying for another course for example.

So How Can We Avoid The Negative Effects Of Being Too Cautious?

1. Don’t Fear Failure

One of the main disadvantages of being too cautious is that the stress become too overwhelming and debilitating. One of the main things in life you must understand is that you shouldn’t ever fear failure. Failing at anything in life is a step up the stairs that lead to success, so you should embrace it!

If you learn to not fear failure, you are less likely to become overwhelmed by the inevitable stress that you will feel when you set large goals for yourself. You will be able to approach the situation calmly, and put in the work that is necessary to get the wanted result.

2. Let Go Of Things That Are Not Under Your Control

It is a waste of energy to stress about matters that are not in your hands. When we take a look at the exam example again, the moment you walk into that exam room there is nothing more you can do. You had all the time in the world to prepare for it, but that time is now gone.

You just have to make the best of the situation. There is no point in stressing anymore since there is nothing you can do more now. Just go into that exam room and do the best you can with the tools you’ve got!

I will soon write more detailed articles about both cautious and careful personality traits. So if you are interested in reading them, make sure to check out the recent posts or the topics section to see if they have already been posted!

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