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By Chris Egan
I used to sit on the front porch of our house as a child watching the storms with my dad. It wasn’t something we did for every storm but I remember enjoying it when we were able to find the time. There was an intriguing peace amidst the storm. It was beautiful. But, now as an adult, when someone says the weather is perfect, beautiful, gorgeous, or good, I know they’re not talking about a thunderstorm rolling through. They’re saying there were minimal clouds and lots of sunshine. But, what constitutes good and bad weather and what are we teaching our children when we describe weather in those terms?
In an interview with Tim Ferriss, Josh Waitzkin, the chess prodigy who was the subject of the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, suggests teaching our children that some weather is good and other weather is bad is a mistake. Josh says:
“One of the biggest mistakes I’ve observed with parents is that they have this language around weather…weather being good or bad…and whenever it was raining they would be like it’s bad weather…it’s bad weather so we can’t go out or it’s good weather we can go out…so that means somehow we are externally reliant on conditions being perfect in order to be able to go out and have good time…so Jack and I never missed a single storm…and we have developed this language on how beautiful it was…and so now whenever it’s rainy day Jack says “look dada it’s such a beautiful rainy day” and we go out and we play in it.”Josh Waitzkin
Internal vs. External Locus of Control
My wife and I enjoy outdoor music festivals whenever we can. We live in an area that is host to several annual festivals that we try to attend. One year there was a huge rainstorm that surprised everyone and sent most people scrambling for shelter. Some people left, some waited it out under a bridge or a vendor’s canopy, and some people simply went on with their day. For the latter, the rain wasn’t an element that could ruin their experience. It was just another piece of the story. External elements like rain didn’t have the final say on whether or not they had a good time. That power was within them. This is called an internal locus of control (ILC).
If someone has an ILC then they believe they “can influence events and outcomes” or, in other words, they take responsibility for their actions and the results of those actions and tend to ignore the stuff that they cannot control, like the rain.
The people who continued enjoying the festival during the rainstorm, and some people that simply didn’t want to get wet and so waited under shelter for the storm to end, had no control over the rain and so they continued enjoying the day as best the could. Would they have been more likely to leave the festival if their parents had taught them this difference between good and bad weather?
Someone with an external locus of control (ELC) places the blame on their situation and ability to enjoy it on outside forces, like the rain.
The Dichotomy of Control
If the idea of an internal and external locus of control sounds familiar, that’s because similar ideas have been explored throughout history.
You may have heard the Serenity Prayer which says,
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.Serenity Prayer
There are also similar ideas in Stoic Philosophy. A collection of the philosopher Epictetus’ works—the Enchiridion—describes what the stoics call the Dichotomy of Control:
Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing. (Enchiridion 1)
If you regard that…which is not your own as being your own, you’ll have cause to lament, you’ll have a troubled mind, and you’ll find fault with both gods and human beings… (Enchiridion 1)
While a child is likely to be disappointment when their baseball game is cancelled due to lightning or a boat trip is cancelled because of rough water, our job as parents is to help them understand that life is unpredictable and all we can do is adjust course in an effort to deal with whatever is thrown our way.
Nature is Not Human Hearted
The weather is certainly not in our power, but our opinion of it is. As parents, we can teach this principle to our children and try to instill a sense of wonder in them. Nature is not good nor bad. It just is, or as Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu said,
“Nature is not human hearted.” “When Beauty is recognised in the World, Ugliness has been learned; When Good is recognised in the World, Evil has been learned.”
What is bad weather anyway?
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