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As you take this easy-to-use tool, formulated from neuroscience, performance research, clinical findings and many other sources, the TPRAT will help you determine your current proficiency level with the four “Life Capacities.” Life Capacities are abilities that make up your personal character. Character is defined as that set of capacities required to meet the demands of reality.
Life has a number of demands on us: how to conduct our relationships, marriage, dating, parenting, self-care, career and finances, for example. As we improve our character development via the four Life Capacities, we are more equipped for success in all aspects of our lives.
To further determine areas of self-improvement, we encourage you to engage in the targeted Growth Skills. With these tools, you will be able to generate a roadmap for reaching your next level.
The capacity to be open and vulnerable with others, and to elicit vulnerability and trust in others.
The capacity to be clear about what you are for and against, own your voice, say no when you need to, and confront effectively.
The capacity to deal well with the negative and difficult aspects of life, such as loss and failure. You are able to adapt to them, and grieve losses in healthy ways, without self-judgment or entitlement.
The capacity to relate to others from a mutual adult stance, rather than a child, adolescent or parent stance, and also to find and follow your life purpose, developing your talents to accomplish this.
These Capacities are essential for emotional well-being, great relationships as well as family and vocational success.
The TPRAT will give you a score number (1-10) for each Capacity that corresponds to a certain level of growth. In this way, you will have four scores, knowing where you stand in each Capacity, and where growth is needed. Here are the scores and levels:
A score of 1 - 2
A score of 3 - 5
A score of 6 - 8
A score of 9 - 10
In each level of each Life Capacity, you will see four Growth Skills, each of which are organized into specific categories, one skill per category, to help you improve and move to higher levels. Your brain grows and thrives on the right kinds of data, thoughts, conversations and experiences. Here are the categories that help it grow.
A review of helpful facts and principles that we provide, which will inform you.
A specific query to which you may respond by writing a paragraph or two, or a list of responses. Make sure you share these thoughts and experiences with a supportive person or group. This will make all the difference.
A specific talk with someone who is supportive of you, will be truthful with you, and is also interested in self-improvement. If the person is more skilled than you in this area, so much the better. Feel free to have the conversation with more than one person. We can’t overemphasize the benefits of asking a few friends and associates for their involvement and help in your self-improvement work in the TPRAT skills.
A new and better way to behave, talk, choose and relate.
So, for each score in each of the four “Life Capacities”, you will have four skills in which to develop. This gives you a total of 16 different targeted skills in your report.
This is not a comprehensive list of skills. There are any number of other possible exercises that a person can engage in to grow. However, these skills will accomplish a great deal to get you where you want to go. Ask a coach or mentor for additional skills to help you. Also, Hiding from Love by Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 1991) and Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 1990) contain some additional skills for the four Life Capacities.
The levels of the TPRAT are built on each other. That is, for a person to be Proficient (a score of 9 to 10) in the Capacity of Boundaries, it helps a great deal for them to have accomplished what is necessary on the earlier levels of Starting Off (a score of 1 to 2), Intermediate (a score of 3 to 5) and Adequate (a score of 6 to 8) in Boundaries. It will be worth your while to review all of the levels, to see if there is work to be done at an earlier level to help you move ahead.
Neuroscience research teaches us that our brains operate better in the context of a relationship. In every area of life, we are better off connected than isolated. We recommend you ask a few people to help you in this process, not only in the “growth conversation” Growth Skill, but all four skill categories. Talk with them about all of these. We have found that having supportive individuals in your life will accelerate your rate of progress. We strongly suggest you invite trusted friends, mentors and coaches to help you in this process. Safe People by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud (Zondervan Publishing, 1995) is a good resource to help you find the right individuals.
Engage in the skills often, meaning several times a week, if at all possible. They weren’t designed to be “one and done.” Just like participating in a sport, learning to play a musical instrument or mastering a business skill, it’s all about repetition and practice.
Regular journaling will accelerate your growth as well. Whether you write in a physical journal or use a digital format, your mind will retain, change and use the information you record. Make this a habit, if not daily, at least three times a week.
You will find that some of these skills may be a bit uncomfortable. This is normal, as you will discover areas of growth that haven’t had lot of exposure for you. Don’t push yourself so hard that it negatively affects how you relate and function, but stay in the “growth zone” and out of the “comfort zone.”
Remember also that personal growth is an oven, not a microwave. Just as our bodies take time to get into shape and overcome deficits and injuries, our brains don’t change immediately. Be patient with yourself and think of these levels in a “lifetime of continuous improvement” way. We will always be working on some aspect of these skills. Depending on your situation, a particularly challenging level change may take months or even years. Don’t worry about it; just keep working on the areas. Investing in your growth and self-improvement will always pay off.
This area has to do with how developed you are in the area of personal attachments, both with others and with yourself. It encompasses how effectively and vulnerably you can relate, and how in touch you are with your emotions and needs, as well as with the vulnerabilities of others. Emotions and needs such as acceptance, validation of our experiences, encouragement and perspective are the critical keys to developing great relationships. Individuals with high levels of achievement in the Bonding Capacity find that they have a healthy set of people in their lives with whom they can connect on deep, sustained and meaningful levels.
The Starting Off level indicates that this is a new or even difficult arena of life for you. You may tend to be much more aware of your thoughts and opinions than you are your emotions and relational needs. You also may tend to have difficulty being vulnerable and trusting other people, and may tend to isolate from others. Don't be discouraged; this is an indicator that you have a target growth area in which we will help you develop the right skills.
Familiarize yourself with the lists of emotions provided in this manual. They will provide a framework and language for growing in Bonding.
Write down a one-paragraph answer to the question, “What in my history might have made it difficult for me to identify and understand my own emotions and relational needs?”
Ask someone you trust to talk about their personal feelings (especially painful ones) and their own relational needs. Have them describe them for you in depth, so you can develop your mental template for what this is like.
The Intermediate level indicates that you are aware of your internal world. You know what you feel at any given time, whether it be positive or negative. You also have an idea of what you need from others, to help you move along in life. However, bringing these matters to others in a satisfying way may have been difficult for you. You want to move toward the next level, which is the ability to express “who you are” to others in a way that creates fulfilling connections with other supportive and positive people.
Read Chapter 2: "The Phantom Mom" in Our Mothers, Ourselves by Dr. Henry Cloud and by Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 1996).
Write a paragraph on what life experiences you may have had that influenced you away from bringing emotions and needs to relationships.
Have a conversation in which you bring a difficult emotion or relational need to the person, without them giving advice. Get their feedback on what it is like for them to have you become that open and vulnerable.
In a conversation about your emotions and needs, take note of any reactions you have to deflect the other person’s acceptance and warmth. You may observe, for example, that you change the subject, or ask them about themselves, or think “I don’t deserve this.” Don’t worry about it; just realize that you are doing it. This observation will help you take in and experience the good the other person is offering you, and will become more natural over time.
The Adequate level shows that you can bring your internal world to other people in a way that works for both of you. Without a great deal of anxiety or self-judgment, you can talk about your experience with others, and ask for what you need, and the conversation goes well for both of you. The skills below will help you move toward the next level, which is the ability to authentically understand the experiences and feelings of others in a mutual way.
Read Chapter 3: “Connecting: Bridging the Gap” in Loving People by Dr. John Townsend (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2007).
Write your paragraph on three skills you learned that are helping you to hear others better, and at a deeper and more accurate level.
Talk to someone who you have found to be a great empathic listener, and ask them how they do what they do. Most people are happy to provide insights into this important skill.
Practice with someone on simply actively listening well to their experience. It could be a 10-minute conversation, and it could be much longer. Let them know you are working on listening in your personal growth, and you need their help to learn this skill. Have them bring up a personal or professional challenge they are experiencing. Then, using the information from the recommended book section, the growth conversation, and any other sources, be there for them. Use eye contact, warmth, authenticity and supportive statements to help. After that, ask for their honest feedback on how the experience was from their perspective so that you can improve. This is more skill than art!
The Proficient level indicates that you are comfortable in understanding others, and are receiving positive feedback from them in this ability. You readily “hit the bullseye” in helping others feel known and understood, and you feel you are helping them in this area. You are also comfortable when you are alone, having lots of internal security from the great experiences you have had with people who care deeply for you. Here are the skills to help you maintain your growth at this level.
Read Chapter 7: “What Matters Most” in How to Be a Best Friend Forever by Dr. John Townsend (Worthy Publishing, 2011).
Write your paragraph on your interest and passion in helping others develop their relational skills. From where does the interest come? How does it affect you to see individuals grow and change in this area?
Talk with someone who has helped you develop in your relational life. Ask them what strengths and challenges they observe in you, to focus you on how you need to complete your toolbox in this area.
Apply this skill in your normal everyday life, not in a “practicing” way, but in a real-life way. This might mean concentrating on bonding with your kids on their level, not yours; having conversations with your spouse or a dating relationship in which you enter their world and help draw them out; use opportunities at work to simply actively listen and tune in to people for a few minutes, instead of always giving them advice.
The word “boundaries” refers to the capacity to be one’s own person. People who have healthy boundaries not only care about others, but have made up their minds about who they are, what they want, and what they don’t want. They can set effective limits to maintain control over their life, time and energy. They have their voice. They take the initiative to go after what is important to them. They have structure and focus. And they know how to confront well when those conversations are necessary.
The Starting Off level indicates that you tend to “go along to get along” with others and avoid conflict. You care about others but can end up enabling them. You may have difficulty paying attention to your own needs, and not setting boundaries when you should. It may be difficult to have a “voice” and confront others. The skills below will help you grow in this area.
Read Chapter 2: “What Does a Boundary Look Like?” and Chapter 4, “How Boundaries are Developed” in Boundaries: Updated and Expanded Edition by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 2017).
Write your paragraph on what happened in your life that influenced you away from having your self-definition, voice and clarity in your relationships.
Ask a trusted person who “gets it” about the benefits of being separate, how they experience your ability to define yourself, have a voice, say “no” and confront. Ask them to provide you with a word picture on how they would envision you as a person with good separateness. How would they describe the “you” as a healthy separate person?
The next several personal or professional conversations you find yourself in, take note of how often you give up yourself, lose your voice, don’t disagree with or adapt to whatever they need you to be. Noticing how often you find yourself “people-pleasing” is a great incentive to help you change.
Individuals at the Intermediate level can both understand and experience where they begin and where they end. You have clarity about differentiating between the feelings and needs of others, and your own. You know what you like and dislike, and what you are “for” and “against.” However, it is often difficult for you to be honest with others when you need to tell them no, disappoint an expectation of theirs, or disagree. Improving these skills will help you grow in this arena.
Read Chapter 5: “Ten Laws of Boundaries” and Chapter 6: “Common Boundary Myths” in Boundaries: Updated and Expanded Edition by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 2017).
Write your paragraph on the top three concerns or fears you have that have kept you from setting limits, being direct and being honest with others.
Bring your three Personal Insight concerns into a conversation with a trusted person, asking them how they themselves may have dealt with these fears.
Say “no” in a respectful way, every day for a week. It can be about having a different opinion than a colleague on a work project, letting your spouse or date know that you aren’t available for a time they’d like to be with you, or telling a friend you don’t agree with their viewpoint on a cultural issue.
Those at the Adequate level can define and clarify themselves well in relationships. You can say “no” when you need to, and feel the freedom to be who you are, and have the efficacy to make needed changes. However, you have more difficulty taking the initiative to seek out someone with which to have a difficult conversation. The skills below will help you grow further in your development.
Read Part 2: “The Essentials of a Good Conversation” in How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 2003).
Write your paragraph on why it is harder for you to confront than to say “no,” and also the benefits of learning the skill of confronting competently.
Role-play a confrontational conversation with a supportive person. Have your friend play an actual person in your life with whom you’re having problems saying "no." Practice your newly learned skills. You and your friend can then talk about how it went, and how you can keep improving.
Confront someone respectfully, twice in a week. It might be someone in your personal life who has behavior that you find difficult or hurtful. It might be someone at work whose attitude negatively affects performance. It just might be someone you want to straighten out a problem with so that you can resume the friendship.
People at the Proficient level are “secure in their skin.” You can shift from “no” to “yes” with ease and without stress. When others ask you to invest your time, energy and resources to help them in some way, and you choose to do so, you do it freely and without fear, resentment or guilt. You also take the initiative to pursue your interests and goals without feeling selfish. The skills below will help you maintain this level of growth.
Read Chapter 1: “You Can Own Your Own Life” in It’s Not My Fault by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2007).
Write your paragraph on how you will NEVER go back to a life of fear, compliance and enabling!
Talk to a supportive person about what they have noticed in your growth, and what they like about this part of you, even the “truth-telling” part. It is a sign of a healthy person that they appreciate your boundaries, and don’t resent you for them.
Put yourself in a normally difficult context in your work or personal life. For example, perhaps someone who constantly controls the conversation, or persists in asking you for time and energy you don’t have, or someone who is constantly critical of you, or trying to fix you. Instead of avoiding that person, let them do whatever they do (as long as they aren’t dangerous) and then just say, “Sorry, that doesn’t work for me” or “I need to let you know that the way you’re talking to me isn’t OK with me,” and go ahead and have the conversation. Be kind, but hold on firmly to your boundaries. It will truly be a “stretch,” but you will come away more confident because you have dealt well with an important Boundary Buster in your life.
Life is full of positive aspects, such as love, happiness and fulfillment. Unfortunately, it is also full of negatives, such as failure, loss and mistreatment by others. Successful people have a positive attitude, but at the same time, they never avoid the negative realities of life either. The Life Capacity of Reality helps people be aware that if they deny or avoid the negative, life gets worse, not better. They don’t get stuck in self-judgment or perfectionism. They adapt to difficulties, and know how to grieve losses in healthy ways. They give up all attitudes of entitlement. People with this Capacity know how to think, how to feel and what to do, to learn and grow from the hardships of life.
Those at the Starting Off level often have trouble dealing with the three fundamental negative realities: failure, losses and mistreatment. You know these things are real and have happened to you, but you have not been given adequate skills to resolve them. As a consequence, you may struggle with perfectionism, feeling overwhelmed in difficulty, or avoidance of the negative altogether. The skills below will help you achieve a better level of growth in this area.
Read Chapter 6: “Our Need for Resolving Good and Bad” in Hiding from Love by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 1991).
Instead of a paragraph, make a list with three columns. In the first column, write the times you have failed significantly in your life. In the second, the significant losses you have experienced. In the third, the significant mistreatments you have undergone from others. It will be painful work, but this process will make it worth the effort in your growth.
Ask someone whom you believe deals well with the negatives in life without dismissing them, and, if they can be vulnerable about this, how they deal with them.
In this more “stretching” conversation, talk to a supportive person about your list of negative realities. Tell them how you believe they may have impacted your life. Then ask them to give you feedback on how they think and feel about you, knowing what they now know about you. You must use care and discretion with whomever you choose for this conversation, as it must be safe and confidential, with no judgment whatsoever.
An Intermediate score level indicates that you can face, admit and identify the significant negative realities in your life, without either minimizing or being disrupted by, the objective facts of these experiences. You are also aware of how the negatives impacted your life. This is a major step in this Life Capacity. The skills below will help you move to the next level.
Read Chapter 14: “Face the Pain That Gets You Somewhere” in The Entitlement Cure by Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 2015).
In your paragraph, write a list of the following key terms that describe ineffective coping styles to negative realities:
Note which of these you tend to use habitually. Write also about how they have failed you in happiness, relationships or work.
Talk to a supportive person about these coping styles and ask them which of them they have also defaulted toward, and how they have grown past them.
Role-play with someone, the coping styles you have used with negative realities. Set up a mock conversation about failure, loss or mistreatment. Simply have the other person play a friend who has heard about your difficult situation, and is concerned and asking you how you are doing. Then enact the style. For example, if you tend toward minimization, have your friend say, “I’m so sorry you were laid off. I know with young kids and a mortgage that’s got to be tough.” Then you might say, “Oh, losing my job isn’t all that bad, it’s just a great opportunity!” This will help you experience how these styles simply aren’t about reality, and also don’t get you anywhere.
People at the Adequate level are aware of the coping styles that have not been helpful for them in dealing with negative realities. You are also working on moving past them. These styles include denial, minimizing, working harder, self-judgment and shaming oneself, blame and entitlement attitudes. You are giving these styles up, because they simply don’t work, and you are renouncing them. The next set of skills will now help you navigate to a higher level.
Read Chapter 11: “No Pain, No Gain: The Role of Suffering and Grief” in How People Grow by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 2001).
Write in your paragraph the major healthy ways of dealing with negative realities:
List which ones come easily for you, and which ones are more of a growth challenge.
Talk to a safe, supportive and mature person about their understanding of the difference between forgiving and being forgiven. Ask them how they handle the two.
People who are proficient in the Life Capacity of Reality can let go of their losses emotionally. This is what the grief process is all about. It is not easy, but it causes great growth and healing. Find a supportive person, and in a conversation with them, take these steps:
Grief is not an impulsive act. It is a skill, with a structure to it, that must be learned.
The Proficient level indicates that you are practiced in the major healthy ways of dealing with negative realities: You can face both positives and negatives equally well, and your emotional state, relationships and activities are better for it. The skills below will keep you moving along in the same direction.
Read the section entitled “The Problem of Having a Problem” in Now What Do I Do?: The Surprising Solution When Things Go Wrong by Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 2010).
Write your paragraph on what current negative realities you are facing in your personal and professional life. With each, write down which of the major healthy ways of dealing with the negative, from the section above, matter most to you, and how you will implement them.
Have a conversation with someone who can hold great joy in one part of themselves, and, at the same time, great sadness. Let them know how much you appreciate that ability, and ask them to help you achieve it as well.
Seek out someone who has mistreated you and, if the situation is appropriate, tell them you forgive them, and do so from the heart. We truly grow when we “forgive the unforgivable.” This does not mean that there are no consequences to whatever they did, and it may not mean there is reconciliation, because that requires change for both parties. But for your part, forgive that person.
Successful people are not only grown-ups on the outside, but also on the inside. That is, they have the ability to function and relate as adults with other adults. There are two key areas of competence in the Capability area. One is more psychological, and one is more behavioral.
The Authority Position describes the way you relate to others within authority roles of all sorts: bosses, colleagues, direct reports, parents, leaders and children, for example. There are four basic positions. The first position is the healthiest, while the other three are incomplete areas to grow from:
Individuals with Capability are focused and clear in their own personal and vocational purpose in life. They have identified and are integrating the five critical elements of purpose below into a way of relating, working and growing:
Individuals at the Starting Off level are beginning to take their place in the world. However, in times of stress or conflict, you may tend to default to the Child, Adolescent or Parent Positions.
Regarding life purpose, this may be something you desire and value, but you have not established as much direction and growth in this area as you need. The following skills will help you move to the next level.
Read Pages 106-112 in Chapter 7: “Our Need for Authority and Adulthood” in Hiding From Love by Dr. John Townsend ( Zondervan Publishing, 1991).
Talk to someone about their perspective of you in both the Authority and the Purpose areas. Where do they see you as having strengths, and where do they see you as having challenges?
The Intermediate level indicates that you are clear of your vision on how you would like to operate from the Adult Position. You also understand clearly how and why you default to one of the other three positions.
Regarding life purpose, you have thought through and mapped out your path of life purpose, integrating the five elements. This can be termed a “Purpose Path,” or it may be a path you have crafted previously along your way. This Path should be written out as a document. The skills below will help you move to the next level.
Read Chapter 16: “Hiding from Authority and Adulthood” in Hiding From Love by Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 1991).
The Adequate level indicates that you are now actively facing and dealing with any fears about changing your default position. You have also identified the coping styles you have taken; you understand at a deeper level why this position has been so difficult to change.
Regarding life purpose, you have moved from thinking and crafting your Purpose Path to executing it. You are rationalizing and behaving in a way that is moving you in the right direction. Your calendar reflects scheduled appointments, meetings and projects that show that this is happening beyond the planning stage. The skills below will help you move to the next level.
Read Pages 113-116 in Chapter 7: “Our Need for Authority and Adulthood” in Hiding From Love by Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 1991).
At the Proficient level for Capability, you are relating and operating in the Adult Position, stably and effectively.
In addition, your life purpose is integrated and moving ahead on track, including the elements of Passions, Talents, Work Ethic, Vocation and Mission. The skills below will help you maintain and continue your work at this level.
Read Part 5: “Transformation” in Leading From Your Gut by Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing, 2018).
Have conversations with a supportive person regarding your Capability:
There are many human emotions. A large emotional vocabulary can accelerate our growth and make communicating with others more satisfying. People who only have a few emotions they are aware of often have difficulty in relationships and careers. This list of 100 feelings is by no means comprehensive, but it is a good start.
Emotions I feel effect my personal well-being and attitude.
We are built to survive and grow through relationships. Just as our bodies require biological nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, our brains require relational nutrients as well. Research shows that when we are isolated from the right kinds of people, or are overexposed to the wrong kinds, it affects our thinking, energy, emotional state and functioning.
We need both kinds of nutrients throughout our lives.
Be there emotionally and compassionately for someone, using fewer words.
Give words that dispense care and support.
Provide helpful information.
Push to a practical step.
Thanks to the following people for their passion, expertise and time in teaming up to help the TPRAT become a reality. Your work has been excellent and much appreciated:
Christine Ames, Karen Bergstrom, Ph.D., Keith Edwards, Ph.D., Scott Makin, M.A., Elaine Morris, Fauna Randolph, Patrick Sells and the Sells Group Web Development Team, the Fall 2018 Townsend Institute faculty and incoming students, the 2018 Townsend Leadership Group Best Practices Conference attendees and my wife, Barbi.