Consider this...

By Mike Johnson


A move to a farmhouse six miles from town made us spectators of the neighbor's visiting peacock. The adventure with the bird was a novelty because we had no prior peacock experience. His peculiar behavior included jumping from our roof to preen himself in the reflection gained from standing on our shiny car.

Once on the auto, the colorful critter would glue himself there for hours while he stared at himself from all angles in the windshield and paint job. We took many photos while chuckling at the bird's odd performance. The novelty wore off however, after several cleanings of what birds do when they stand in one place for several hours. Now we shoo the ten-pound bird away when we catch him sneaking anywhere near the car.

But still, there is much to be learned from observing that peacock. Despite our shooing and the peril of dogs that chase the bird when he comes down off the roof, that car attracts the peacock like a magnet. The driving goal of that peacock's life is to see his reflection as frequently as possible and he risks his very life to do so.

People are quite similar. We surround ourselves with people, activities and possessions that reflect back the vision of ourselves we most want to see. Studied from the cold eye of detached observation, much of our time is revealed for what it really is - preening.

It's easy to recognize the vain woman who spends hours in front of a mirror applying makeup to cover her real or imagined imperfections. In this example, the person is obsessed with her appearance to such a degree that she literally applies a mask before exposing herself in public. Until her actual reflection matches her mental image of how she should reflect, she won't leave the house. Never questioning why she feels compelled to meet these elusive appearance standards, she wastes untold hours, dollars and peace of mind chasing them.

Possessions lead to a similar trap. People often purchase things in an effort to feel or appear successful to themselves and others. The person holds a mental imagine of what material success looks like and then marshals all his resources to match this vision in reality. So driven to meet that image, the typical person quickly discounts the huge cost of time and money needed to pay for the possession and acquires it anyway.

Activities also hold similar clues. Why do we spend our time doing what we do? Most people reflexively think they do so because they enjoy it. But they never ask why they enjoy it. Often times, what a person calls enjoyment is nothing more than an unconscious compulsion to see himself as he imagines himself to be. Like that peacock, he is trapped preening to that image.

Take a close look at your friends. In most cases you enjoy them because they reflect back the you that you most like to see. They laugh at your jokes. They share your interests. They compliment your abilities. And you do the same for them. It's an unspoken conspiracy - let me preen to you and you can preen for me. Remove all the preening from both sides of a friendship and how many people would you truly like to spend time with?

Preening is merely another word for ego - that mental image we hold of ourselves. Ego is the force within us that drives us relentlessly after approval - both from ourselves and from others. Like the peacock, we will do anything to get that approval - including becoming slaves to jobs, possessions, activities and people.

What so few realize is that nothing or no one forces us to live up to the demands of that ego. The only power it has over us is the power we give it by never questioning why we do what we do. Stop just once and refuse to provide what the ego screams for and you'll realize just how much power you actually have.

Once free of the ego, you suddenly have all your time and all your resources, yet none of the desires that eagerly spend them. True prosperity does not lie in obtaining everything you want - inner opulence arrives when you are FREE of your wants.

You are not your ego. Nothing can make you preen to it without your permission. This is the truth that sets both peacocks - and people -- free.


Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at