Has this ever happened to you? I know it has to me. People often tell me how great I am at sales, but there are few things I enjoy less than sales – save teaching. Now, take this as no offense if you are in sales – or teaching – but I know that these are areas that not only don’t get me out of bed in the morning, they make me want to hide under the covers.

So how does this happen? How is it we can be so good at doing something and absolutely dread doing it? The answer lies in our talents. Many of the assessments out there tell us what type of job would suit us best, but Clifton StrengthsFinder is not one of those tools. It tells us how we will do the job, but not what job to do.

If we use that talent lens, then, to understand our ‘how’, we can see why certain jobs – while we might be capable of and even excellent at doing them – just don’t ring true for us. Take the example of my friend’s son who was a processor in a technical company for many years. He was excellent at his job, but was miserable. When he finally learned what his talents were, he discovered he had four of his top five talents in the Relating Domain – he had a need to be with people. And there was the lightbulb. No wonder spending hour after hour in a dark basement office, away from people, was making him miserable. Now, he’s in a new job, working in retail. He’s still using his same expertise in processing, but now with a full team of people where he has abilities to relate all day long – and he is not only less stressed, but much happier.

In my own case, the fact of the matter is, I am good at sales – in a manner of speaking. And most people believe this to be true because five of my top ten (3 of my top 5) talent themes are in the Influencing Domain. But what really made me good at my job was not hitting numbers or closing deals, but gaining my clients’ trust. Not selling to them, but helping them buy what was best for their needs. When it came to quotas and moving product, I was the worst and my stress level was high. That same ability to serve people and generate trust is what makes me a successful coach and keeps me going as an entrepreneur. I set the bar. I set the rules. And I choose the relationships that are most important to me.

As a last example, I’m reminded of a story shared in Now, Discover Your Strengths about a journalist who had high Empathy. She was a master of the interview, always knowing the right question to ask and when to ask it. When her mother became ill, she left her job to care for her and found herself naturally becoming a source of information and comfort for others going through the hospice process. Realizing that the same talent of Empathy was at work here, she made a career move and became a Hospice Counselor, providing needed information to those in need in a direct, but caring way.

Recognizing our ‘how’ is often the key to getting us out of a rut. It can also be the key to creating a more engaged team or creating better hiring and development practices. When we apply our talents in a way which is energizing and satisfying, we are more productive, less stressed and generally happier – all which create a positive ripple effect – not only at work, but in our personal lives as well.

It’s all in the application. There is no limit to how we can use a talent, only paths which resonate better with us than others.