This is the third in a series of columns on Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Here we describe the first habit, "Be Proactive," and what that means for information professionals.

The word proactive means, "controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than waiting to respond to it after it happens."1 According to Webster's dictionary, the word is actually a relatively new word in the English language, dating to the Great Depression. I don't know its origin, but I wonder if it had to do with the development of a sense of self-reliance in an era of severe unemployment and feelings of helplessness when conditions seemed beyond control. Covey says proactivity means more than taking initiative. It means that our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions, and that we are responsible for our lives.2

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