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The Traditional Assessment of Wellness (TAW)

Traditional Assessment of Wellness:

a Free Measure of Holistic Health

The Traditional Assessment of Wellness (TAW) measures character strengths and weaknesses as listed in a 4000-year-old tradition.  It has a lie scale to measure how honest you are being with yourself as you complete the test.  The TAW is an assessment tool for helping people identify attitudes and lifestyles which are working for and against their holistic health and personal wellness. It is free, user-friendly, face-valid, and it is now available above on this website.

Training for life coaching is usually long on counseling methods and coaching philosophy, but short on diagnosis and theory.  Too often it lets the coach define wellness without any structure or content for what the good life needs to look like.  Unless clients can be given feedback that provides them an objective view of their self-concept compared to an established norm for what is healthy, coaching clients often feel judged when the structure and content come out of the coach.

One traditional theory about the good life has cross-cultural norms for wellness and has stood the test of time, twenty-five centuries of it. This tradition describes healthy beliefs and behaviors, along with the best traditional ways of promoting them. Published research has consistently correlated these attitudes and lifestyles positively with measures of mental health.

The eight dimensions of holistic health addressed by the TAW have ancient historical origins. They were mentioned by the Arabian philosopher Zoroaster over 2500 years ago, 2100 years ago by Horace in Greece, and 1600 years ago by Christian and Moslem philosophers along the Nile River in Egypt.[1] Interest in these issues in the Western world grew in 620 A.D. when Pope Gregory first catalogued the “seven deadly sins.” These are seven of the eight areas of health-relevant attitudes and behaviors measured by the TAW. Under the supervision of Paul Meehl (former American Psychological Association president and author of the MMPI K scale), Dr. William Backus did his doctoral thesis at the University of Minnesota on a personality test he constructed to measure the seven deadly sins, the “Sinful Attitudes Inventory”. He gave it along with the MMPI to a large sample of college students, psychiatric outpatients, and psychiatric inpatients. This research showed widespread and statistically significant correlations between these attitudes and mental health.

Dr. Backus decided not to publish his test because of its religious connotations. But he did encourage and assist me in the publication of my own test in 1981, the Character Assessment Scale (CAS). The CAS focused on positives that were taught in public school (character) alongside negatives that were taught in church (sin). It was normed on people from all 50 states and all seven Canadian provinces. The foundational research establishing its norms, reliability, and correlative validity was accepted by the American Psychological Association [2], and 5000 copies of the this test were sold across five continents of the world. It also measured the eighth issue of honesty, which allowed it to have a lie scale to correct for the tendency to see and present oneself in a favorable light. Ten demographic variables were studied along with these eight dimensions of holistic health, and once again, they were significantly correlated with various demographics. Now I have taken 80 of the best items from the true-false CAS, and modernized them with a Likert-scale format. I have been using this instrument in my private practice, and revising the norms as I go.

The TAW measures the attitudes and lifestyles of the seven deadly sins: Selfish Pride, Envy, Resentment, Greed, Laziness, Lust, and Gluttony. Likewise it measures the positive counterparts of those seven traits – Humility, Compassion, Peacemaking, Resourcefulness, Enthusiasm, Sexual Integrity, and Physical Fitness. It also measures an eighth issue of truthfulness: adherence to standards of Honesty in public and private behavior, plus a Denial (lie) scale that shows the tendency to see and present oneself in a flattering light on this test. In addition to the 16 basic scores, it yields a Total Wellness Index that combines the other sixteen. Fifteen other content scales are also provided, and all scores may be adjusted to correct for social desirability distortions (the Denial scale). Each is conveyed as a percentile based on all those who have taken the test. Specific norms will be available for certain demographic variables such as gender and age.

The TAW will soon be made available here to the public.  To facilitate research and encourage widespread use, the items and feedback sheet will be published through a Creative Commons copyright, using the Attribution and Share-Alike options.  To insure privacy and anonymity, anyone will be able to print out the test questions and answer sheets.  Completed answer sheets can be emailed or faxed into me for scoring, and they will be returned within a week through the same means they were sent.  People wanting to insure their anonymity can send their answer sheets in through someone else’s email or fax.  Presuming 10 seconds per item, it will take people about 15 minutes to complete the TAW.  Everyone submitting their answers will be asked to give thirteen pieces of non-identifying demographic information for the purposes of research:  gender identity, age category, relational status, educational level, geographical area, type of occupation, income level, political views, physical health, mental health, relational health, spiritual health, and if they want, a code name for their own use, such as to identify individuals from a group, class, or congregation taking the test.  These demographic factors were roughly the same ones that were collected in the foundational research for the CAS, so they will allow confirmation and elaboration of those earlier findings, indicating which lifestyles and demographic groups are associated with which types of holistic wellness and dysfunction.  For the welfare of the general public, the test will remain free and anonymous, and the data I collect will be shared in an open research model.  This will encourage future research to be diversely published.



18-25, 26-35, 36-45, 46-55, 56-65, 66-75, and 76+

Male heterosexual, Female heterosexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Transsexual, Other

Single, Cohabiting, 1st Marriage, Separated, Divorced, Remarried, Widowed

GEOGRAPHICAL AREA* Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Northwest, West Coast,

International, Urban, Rural

Unemployed, Full-time homemaker, Employed part-time, Employed full-time without benefits, Self-employed full-time w/o benefits, Employed full-time with benefits, Management supervising 1+ full-time, Business owner employing 1+ other full-time

NO H.S. Diploma or GED, H.S. Diploma or GED, Associates degree, College graduate, Masters degree, Doctorate or 2 Masters degrees

Lower Lower class, Upper Lower, Lower Middle (homeowner), Upper Middle (homeowner out of debt and saving money), Lower Upper, Upper Upper




Red – concerned for the rights of businesses and traditional families
Blue – concerned for rights of all people, especially the disadvantaged
Green – wanting to protect the environment and international peace
Purple – independent, supporting best candidate running in each race
Yellow – wanting to minimize taxes and government regulations
Gray – I cannot be described by any categories above

Five levels will be delineated: Poor, Fair, Average, Good, and Excellent

Currently being treated in a psych ward or drug rehab unit
Struggling to cope with life, using drugs or alcohol to help or numb out
Struggling to cope with life, but not relying on drugs or alcohol
My life is stable but not very satisfying
My life is stable and satisfying, but not very interesting
My frustrations are teaching me as I go, and I’m generally enjoying life
I am content and fulfilled, enjoying life as it comes

Poor: No significant other and no close friends
Fair: Have a lover/mate but no close friends
Average: Good close friends but not in love now
Good: Married or stable love relationship supported by close friends
Excellent: Intimate with both mate and friends

Devout: regular in prayer, worship, Bible study, fellowship, and service
Social: somewhat active in church/fellowship for worship and service
Spiritual: privately praying and meditating but without organized religion
Agnostic: seriously doubting validity of bible, church, and a creator god
Atheist: I believe and live as if there’s no heaven, hell, Devil, or God
12-step: I find my higher power in the people and principles of recovery
Inactive: I guess I am a believer, but most people wouldn’t be able to tell


Any group wishing their own norms on this test can be given their own code number their members can enter here.

* Respondents will be able to check more than one answer to these questions.


  1. Selfish Pride: conceitedness, believing that one somehow has special entitlements
  2. Envy: delighting in others’ misfortunes, and reacting to their happiness with self-pity or jealousy
  3. Resentment: refusing to forgive others; harboring grudges and wishing or working for revenge
  4. Greed: seeking and protecting money and material things to the neglect of family and friends
  5. Laziness: neglecting and disregarding important activities and responsibilities to take it easy
  6. Lust: using sex for personal gratification, thus avoiding, neglecting and betraying loved ones
  7. Gluttony: overindulging in food, alcohol, drugs, and other pain-killing substances and experiences
  8. Denial: neglecting or refusing to acknowledge one’s shortcomings and faults on this evaluation
  9. Humility: living as if all people have unique and common value and potential for good and for harm
  10. Compassion: helping and empathizing with other people, especially when they are in trouble
  11. Peacemaking: harnessing anger to fight for peace, to settle disagreements and misunderstandings
  12. Resourcefulness: saving money, keeping it simple, and being generous with others
  13. Enthusiasm: inspired dedication to work long and hard without getting burned out
  14. Sexual Integrity: using sex to seal and celebrate intimacy in a fully committed relationship
  15. Physical Fitness: keeping the body fit with a healthy diet and exercise
  16. Honesty: telling the truth and living out the same values and priorities in all settings
  17. Respect = Humility + Selfish Pride
  18. Concern = Compassion + Envy
  19. Anger = Peacemaking + Resentment
  20. Money = Resourcefulness + Greed
  21. Time/Energy = Enthusiasm + Laziness
  22. Sexuality = Sexual Integrity + Lust
  23. Body/Health = Physical Fitness + Gluttony
  24. Truthfulness = Honesty + Denial
  25. Total Wellness Index TWI = 17 + 18+ 19 + 20 + 21 + 22 + 23 + 24

Experimental Scales

These will be computed but not reported. Their reliability and internal consistency must be established before any of these would become part of the report given to those who take the test. Meanwhile, their relationship to the 25 basic scales and to the demographics can still be studied.

  1. Physical Wellness (20 items)
  2. Emotional Wellness (21 items)
  3. Relational Wellness (23 items)
  4. Proactivity vs. Waste and Neglect = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8
  5. Reactivity vs. Abuse and Addiction = 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 + 14 + 15 + 16
  6. Trust and Value = Truthfulness + Respect
  7. Love and Hate = Concern + Anger
  8. Work and Recreation = Money + Time/Energy
  9. Pleasure and Pain = Sex + Body/Health
  10. Principles vs. Pleasure = (Truth + Value) + (Pleasure + Pain)
  11. Giving vs. Taking = (Work + Recreation) + (Love and Hate)
  12. Mission to Society = (Trust and Value) + (Work and Recreation)
  13. Mission to Family and Friends = (Love and Hate) + (Pleasure and Pain)
  14. Invisible Habits of the Soul = (Trust and Value) + (Love and Hate)
  15. Visible Habits of the Body = (Work and Recreation) + (Pleasure and Pain)

Sample Items for the Traditional Assessment of Wellness

  1. I am bothered by people who seem to have no faults.
  2. I have had resentments to last for months and months.
  3. It is a top priority for me to have enough money and assets so that I will be self-reliant.
  4. The fear of failure sometimes keeps me from doing my best.
  5. Sometimes I like to hear or look at things that most people would consider sexually obscene.
  6. When there are delicious foods around, I can’t very well eat just a little and then stop.
  7. Sometimes I enjoy seeing somebody get the punishment he deserves.
  8. Guilt is usually a constructive feeling for me, and so I react fairly well to criticism.
  9. I am usually a good companion and friend for a person who is feeling miserable.
  10. When people I love hurt me, I usually try to figure it out and talk it through with them.
  11. Learning to enjoy sharing your money is one way to protect yourself against hard times.
  12. Most people who know me think I am a cheerful and optimistic person.
  13. In romance and lovemaking, I (would) care as much about my beloved as myself.
  14. I get enough exercise, and avoid putting unhealthy food and drugs into my body.
  15. By keeping my promises, I avoid taking on too many commitments.
[1] Bloomfield, Morton, The Seven Deadly Sins. East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1952.

[2] Schmidt, Paul F. “Assessing the Moral Dimension of the Personality: The Character Assessment Scale”, paper presented to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Los Angeles, 1981. The CAS was also published by the APA in 2015 in their collection of PsychTests.


Now that this website is secure, a board of directors is being sought to network with other human resources, and to raise money for this project.  Funding sources and project supporters can help us meet the following missional objectives:

  • Empower people to live in holistic health, and to share it with others
  • Create a free and open research project which will remain accessible to the public
  • Discover how living by traditional wellness philosophies can create holistic health
  • Demonstrate the practical wisdom of western civilization’s oldest psychology
  • Seek universities to partner in promoting this wellness program and research

Here are our short-term goals to accomplish these purposes:

  • Social and traditional media promotion, to increase participation
  • Technical assistance to streamline test scoring and feedback
  • Sharpening the TAW measurement powers by revising weaker test items
  • Converting test answers to updated percentiles

Our longer-term goals include:

  • Improving interface with other platforms
  • Encouraging research and publications in professional journals and mainstream periodicals

Expanded and revised mission and goals for WELL can be found on the page “The WELL Nonprofit”