Several years ago, a trusted colleague in my company’s HR department introduced me to the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. This tool has provided me with significant insight into the unique value that I bring—to my employer, to my friendships, or to any endeavor.

As you consider ways to reduce your dependence on your regular paycheck and develop new streams of income, it will be helpful to know in which areas you excel. Knowing your strengths can help ensure that you are doing what you do best every day. As we’ve discussed before, this can help you to enjoy a new venture and stick with it.

You may or may not know what your strengths are. Maybe you know something about your strengths; you may have received feedback from colleagues or from a supervisor during your annual performance review. Or perhaps you’ve taken some kind of formal assessment. But what if you don’t have a very clear idea as to what your strengths are?

This is where the StrengthsFinder can help. The StrengthsFinder tool is based on more than 40 years of research, and more than 7 million people have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment. To find your strengths, you complete a questionnaire that identifies your top five strengths out of the 34 most common talents. After taking the assessment, you receive a report with a detailed description of your personal strengths and some suggestions for capitalizing on them. StrengthsFinder focuses only on your top five strengths because that’s where you will see the best return; the more dominant the talent, the greater your opportunity to use that talent to your advantage.

The content is available in book form, which you can purchase via amazon.com, and there is also an online version of the content. The StrengthsFinder book provides a brief description of each talent and offers some tips as to how to use each strength to your advantage. In addition, the authors include information on how to work with others with a given strength. At only $15, this can be an extremely useful and affordable tool in teambuilding and in working more effectively with others. It can be a helpful shorthand in communicating.

StrengthsFinder doesn’t recommend any particular career or role but gives you insight that you can use to help guide your thinking about your new venture. It also may also be helpful when you’re seeking a partner for a new business, as it’s useful to have a range of strengths on any given team.

When I took the assessment, I discovered that my top 5 strengths are:

  1. Deliberative
  2. Learner
  3. Input
  4. Intellection
  5. Analytical

This combination is rather heavily weighted towards taking in information and thinking. When Jon and I wrote our post on education, we had several heated debates about formal education. I had very much enjoyed my formal education and in our discussions kept insisting on the value of it. Not long ago, I realized that my strengths were a contributing factor in my enjoyment of formal education.

As a Learner, I always have a desire to learn something new. With Input, I am always collecting new pieces of information to add to my mental archives. Intellection means that I enjoy spending time alone with my thoughts, whatever the subject. This combination of strengths allowed me to flourish in a formal learning environment.

Those of us who are Deliberative focus on risk mitigation; in a given situation, we consider all possible outcomes.  People with a Deliberative strength can help balance high-level visionaries who may not foresee the details that could negatively impact a project or a company. From time to time, when I’m delving too deeply into my “what if” scenarios, Jon, my co-author at Paycheckaholics Anonymous, will question my approach. I’ll reply, not entirely jokingly, “That’s just me being Deliberative.” This kind of self-awareness can be useful in ensuring balanced thinking and avoiding behavioral extremes.

Your strengths will be different, of course, and it’s your unique combination of strengths that can help you to maximize your performance–and your enjoyment–in the domain you choose.

Whether you’re working at a paycheckaholic job or striking out on your own, you’re much more likely to achieve breakthrough performance if you’re making use of your natural talents. StrengthsFinder is a very cost-effective tool to learn more about yourself. It can help you focus your thinking as you plan a new business venture. In gaining a better understanding of your strengths, you’ll be able to make the best use of your most important asset: you!