• Foreseeing and intervening in anticipation of future needs or changes
  • Initiating and preparing beforehand rather than reacting afterwards
  • Taking steps ahead of time based on training, knowledge and experience


This week's GuideMark is Proactive. Being proactive means taking steps in anticipation of what might happen, even though it may or may not. For example, I don't always know if I will need an umbrella, but if I bring one with me, and it rains, I am usually glad that I brought one along.

But choosing to be proactive is often trickier than simply deciding whether or not to bring an umbrella. For example, Funds For Learning® has been actively working for 18 months to bring about change in the E-rate funding program. We refer to these changes as "E-rate 2.0". We think that adjustments to the rules governing the E-rate program will help avoid big problems down the road. However, after 18 months of being proactive, the program's rules have yet to be adjusted. (We are asking schools to let the FCC know they agree with us.)

Is this a good use of our time and energy, or should we invest it elsewhere? If we help fix the E-rate program, then all of our hard work will look like a great idea. But what if all of our work doesn't pan out? What then?... What if I pack my umbrella but it doesn't rain?

Proactive: Foreseeing and intervening in anticipation of future needs or changes

Here is my basic outline to being proactive.

Anticipate what might happen

Consider the cost.

Weigh the odds and consider the outcomes.

ANTICIPATE WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN. Being proactive involves seeing possible outcomes, not being a fortune teller. Being proactive is not synonymous with being clairvoyant or knowing the future. If we precisely knew the future then it would not be a challenge to be proactive. In fact, it would be downright silly not to take steps ahead of time if we knew exactly what tomorrow held. To be proactive, you don't have to know the future, you just have to have an ability to predict possible futures.

CONSIDER THE COST. What will it take to be proactive? Does it require a major investment or sacrifice?

WEIGH THE ODDS AND CONSIDER THE OUTCOMES. After you have a handle on what might happen and what it would cost to prepare for it, it is important to consider how likely it is to occur and what the potential outcomes are. An event may be unlikely, but the consequence so severe that it is worth being proactive. Storm shelters are a good example of this. Living in Oklahoma, in the heart of "Tornado Alley", it is a good idea to have a storm shelter. Last week, thousands of lives were protected because of proactive steps taken to plan for a tornado that might happen - and did. Giant, powerful tornados are a very rare but deadly event. It is good idea to be proactive in these cases.

In other cases, something may be likely to occur, but the outcome is so inconsequential that it doesn't matter. If I forget my sunglasses when I drive to work, I may have to squint a little, but the outcome won't ruin my day.


The point of all this is that it is important to be proactive. We don't know what will happen, but a lot of times we know what might happen. We should use common sense to evaluate what it would take to prepare for those potential outcomes. If the cost is reasonable compared to the likelihood of the event and/or its potential impact on our lives (either positive or negative), then we should take steps to prepare.

This brings me back to "E-rate 2.0". The E-rate program impacts almost every student and library patron in the United States. As a company, we at Funds For Learning® see an opportunity to bring about change to improve and protect E-rate funding -- and we are in a position to try and bring about that change. Whether or not we are successful in helping the E-rate program get back on track, I am extremely proud of our efforts. Our "E-rate 2.0" initiative is a great example of being proactive.


Key Words and Phrases

Acting in anticipation; Causing something to happen; Taking steps based on experience; Foreseeing; Preparing beforehand; Intervening ahead of time; Initiating instead of reacting; Farsighted planning and action.

Opposite Terms

Shortsighted; Reactionary; Improvident; Myopic.


GuideMarks – Distinguishing Characteristics of FFL E-rate Guides

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