WE LIVE in a rapidly changing environment that is easier to cope with if we cultivate the habit of continual learning to enrich our personal and work lives.

Learning is not just confined to classroom training. In everything, there is always a lesson that you can tap on. As the Chinese proverb says: "When the student is ready, the master appears."

Learning is like planting. You sow the new seed in your mind, then water and nourish it in the faith that it will sprout and grow. Left on its own without being nurtured, it will slowly fade away. It is up to you to take ownership of your continual learning.

How do you learn to learn to ensure that new knowledge, ideas and skills gained are translated into new ways of doing things? This is referred to as a behavioural shift. How do you engage in active learning to make the journey more meaningful, exciting and illuminating to the mind, spirit and soul? Here are some suggestions:

1. Set learning goals

Setting learning goals is a proactive step a learner can take to transfer knowledge and skills to real life. You should:

* Be clear of your learning objectives;

* List specific steps or actions that you will take to practise or improve on the new skills. For instance, if you have attended a presentation skills course, you may want to commit to presenting a topic in front of your friends or co-workers, and ask them to give you critical feedback; and

* Set timelines for practising these new skill.

2. Keep a journal

Keeping a learning journal helps you reflect and express your thoughts, observations or new perspectives during the learning process. These help you question old assumptions and identify new ways of thinking.

Some years ago, I kept a journal on my leadership training and became more aware of the way I participated in the course. While reading through my journal, it dawned on me how in life and work, I had been making decisions governed by a certain pattern of behaviour. My paradigm started to shift - not overnight, but I was enlightened.

3. Dialogue and questioning

You explore and discover new possibilities in the process of dialogue and questioning. Be like the little child who is never satisfied with a simple answer. Ask questions when engaging in a dialogue with yourself or with others.

* Dialogue with yourself

In writing down your thoughts about the learning experience, ask yourself:

* "What has inspired me about the topic or issue being discussed?"

* "What would I do differently from now?"

* "What is this new experience teaching me and how has this programme improved my learning, thinking and working?"

* "Are there any other resources that can help me reinforce this topic or skills?"

* Dialogue with others

Participating in a group discussion helps you to hear other people's views. You may take this a step further by sharing your knowledge and ideas with your boss, peers, family members or friends. Ask them for their views on the subjects discussed.

In the process, you will realise that there are many ways at looking at an issue. You may not always agree with everyone but you will learn to respect the opinions of others.

4. Teach it

We are all learners, doers and teachers. American writer and poet Maya Angelou says: "When you learn, teach. When you get, give." We learn by doing, and people learn best and fastest by teaching others. Teaching is giving, too. By imparting your knowledge and skills to others, there is a multiplying effect. As you refresh others, you will be refreshed too.

5. Know your learning style

Every individual has his or her preferred learning style that includes visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic modes.

* Visual mode. Visual learners learn best from visual stimuli, such as slides, flipcharts, posters, drawings or videos. They tend to "see" the big picture and visualise concepts in their mind. They will say: "I see the difference...", "I get the picture"

* Auditory mode. Auditory learners process information better through lectures or presentations, small group discussions, and by listening to audio aids. They prefer to interact with the world - face to face, or on the telephone. They will say: "It sounds like a good idea", "I hear what you're saying".

* Kinaesthetic mode. Kinaesthetic learners learn best through explaining, exploring, assembling or disassembling ideas or objects. They gain maximum understanding and information by being involved in an activity or performing a task. They make verbal statements like: "I feel that", "I'm touched by what you said."

Although preferred learning styles vary from person to person, you should try to vary these to improve your learning skills. By combining other learning modes with your preferred style, you will process a wide variety of information quickly, accurately and effectively.