Self-Actualization or Enlightenment?

The human potential movement branched into two directions.

The first direction was more pragmatic and focused on self-actualization. This direction examines how to get the most out of our century life. This journey defined self-actualization as becoming more effective in your interactions with others and enjoying life more.

Abraham Maslow came up with the term self-actualization. To give it a name was one thing. To describe what it means — or how to achieve it — is something else again. Even Maslow was not sure what self-actualization was, but for him, it represented the highest development a human could achieve. Who wouldn’t want that?

People wondered what self-actualization would look like. How would they know when they had reached self-actualization? The term defined a destination for us and suggested that life might be thought of as a journey to reach this destination. This journey required satisfying our lower level needs and moving up the hierarchy to higher level needs. But the destination for such a journey was always shrouded in fog.

The second direction focused on eastern religions and this thing called enlightenment. This focus was not interested in being more effective with other people. It was not interested in finding happiness. In fact, the focus itself remained shrouded in mystery. So why would people bother with it?

Basically, they were not given a choice. At some point in their life they came to the stunning realization that something they needed or wanted was missing from their life—and they had no idea what it was. They turned to Zen, they turned to Tibetan Buddhism, the turned to Taoism, Hinduism or whatever they thought would unlock the mystery of what they were searching for.

The differences between these two journeys has not been made not clear and so everything got lumped together into the great scheme of the Human Potential Movement

Resource For Life is our attempt to sort this all out and to clarify what our choices are and what these two journeys entail.

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