The following story was told by Peg Neuhauser, the American anthropologist, illustrating how some of us can be quite rigid in the way we hold on and defend our worldviews. Nevertheless, change is always possible.
The Grand Canyon Story
My grandfather was known for being a real character, and also being very
stubborn with an unshakeable belief in himself. He also, as far as we
know, had no sense of humour, so what happened in this story was no
laughing matter as far as he was concerned.
The story is about a trip he made to the Grand Canyon with my grandmother
in the late 1930s. The particular day they arrived it was fogged in,
as it often is there. He waited around until the next morning but the fog
didn’t lift. Well, my grandfather wasn’t known for being a very patient
person either, so, refusing to wait any longer, he told my grandmother that
they were leaving, and they got on the train and went on to California.
From that day and for years afterwards, he would tell people that the
Grand Canyon was an over-rated tourist trap. He’d been there and seen
it and there was nothing to it. We tried showing him pictures but he just
pushed them away, saying, “No! That’s part of the trap. They show you
these kind of pictures, and then you get there and it doesn’t look anything
You just couldn’t reason with the man. So eventually we gave up and
would just try and steer clear of the topic of the Grand Canyon.
Then my grandmother died and my grandfather remarried. Somehow,
and I have no idea how, my step-grandmother got him to go back for
another visit. This time it was a gorgeous day, the view was breathtaking
and my grandfather was thrilled. He went into the gift shop, bought a post
card with a picture of the Grand Canyon on it and wrote to my parents on
the back: “Dear Nancy and Paul, The Grand Canyon has changed a lot.
We could look at the story at various angles and levels.
Implications and Coaching Questions
First, we could recognize that our views aren’t permanent. Just because we hold a certain view of things at one time doesn’t mean it has to remain that way forever. Be aware that a shift is always a possibility.
Are there some important issues that you need to revisit?
What have you gained by being rigid in your worldview?
And what can you possibly gain by being flexible in your worldview?
And just because our vision is obstructed by fog in one moment doesn’t mean it can’t be cleared in the next. Just because it’s cloudy doesn’t mean the sun isn’t there anymore. Conditions change all the time. Be aware of the fluidity of changes. Know that clarity is always present.
What are the implications for you if clarity has always been there even when it’s hidden?
What would it mean if it’s possible for a change to occur in any moment although you may not see it?
Next, we could also realize that not everyone sees the way we see, and they don’t necessarily feel what we feel. Everyone experiences the same events or circumstances differently. We all respond to the thought images we hold (which are made up of our beliefs, preferences, values, interests, moods and a whole lot of random thoughts in the moment) rather than to the circumstances directly.
What if you know for a fact that your feelings (what you experience) come from your thinking and not the circumstances?
It’s obvious that it is the fog that obstructs our view. But what may not be obvious is that many times, we are the ones creating the fog from within. Just like grandpa Amos who pointed out that Grand Canyon has changed a lot, but couldn’t see that it was his rigid thinking and stubbornness that got in the way of his enjoyment of the Grand Canyon in the first place!
It’s quite pointless to try to change someone else’s thinking. Just know that when left unforced, fresh new thoughts can flow, and that could possibly bring renewed clarity along with new insights.
What are the ‘fogs’ that you may have created from within?
What are some of the unhelpful, rigid thinking that you can let go to make way for fresh thoughts to come through?
Remember, changes in conditions can occur in any moment. Be open to that possibility.
Also remember that the Grand Canyon has never changed; it is our view, our thoughts and us that could change. And that changes everything.