Fulfilling Human Potential

This morning I was thinking about “poverty eradication.”   I was thinking about this because right before going to bed last night I watched a TEDx video titled “What Needs to be Done in the 21st Century?”   The presenters, Erika Ilves and Annie McQuade, listed 9 separate global imperatives, where each cause had its own tribe that feels that its cause is most important.

Here’s their list:

1.  The Economy, and Economic Growth
2.  Global Warming and the Environment
3.  Technology as what can save and fulfill us.
4.  Poverty eradication, and the Millennium Development Goals
5.  Disaster Relief
6.  Security and Defense – against destructive abilities of terrorists, criminals and enemies.
7.  Peace:  creating a global civilization based on shared values
8.  Global governance – creating effective global responses to global problems.
9.  Science – understanding ourselves and the Universe.

So, back to poverty eradication as an example of one of these tribes:

Extreme poverty is a very obvious and heartbreaking obstacle to living a fulfilling life.   So eradicating poverty is a very tangible, and addressable, goal to get behind.

But the real goal behind poverty eradication is to give all humans the opportunity to fulfill their human potential.

This is really the ultimate goal of any social improvement type goal, including all 9 of these listed above.  But the trick is in getting widespread agreement on what is human potential.

And yet, there seems to be broad agreement that human potential has three dimensions:  Physical, mental, and spiritual.

Physical potential means the potential to be healthy and strong.

Mental potential means the potential to be intelligent, creative, and adaptive.

Spiritual potential means the potential to be happy, loving, and to have a sense of purpose.

In addition, nearly all spiritual traditions and philosophies have some idea the full spiritual development includes the ability to transcend – go beyond – the limitations of individual and tribal egos.

Another common idea of spiritual fulfillment is to enhance our sense of connection to all of life.  Most humans feel more fulfilled when surrounded by the beauty of nature in balance – just as we feel a crucial sense of loss or danger when nature, and our connection to it, is not in balance.

To some people, “spiritual” is the most important dimension of fulfillment, because the spiritual dimension has the potential to transcend the other two.  However, to others, “mental” or “physical” is most important.  And yet, most people agree that the ideal is to have all three of these types of fulfillment.

OK.  If there really is broad agreement that the ultimate goal is to give all humans the opportunity to be fulfilled physically, mentally, and spiritually; then what do we do with that agreement?

Obviously:  We all focus on becoming saints!

Otherwise, admitting that this is the ultimate goal can easily threaten the narrow desires and expectations of many of us (and of our egos).    For example, if these are the ultimate goals, why would anyone want to be, or to remain, a billionaire?   Having a billion dollars at our personal disposal (or even many millions) is simply not a requirement for any single individual’s, or family’s, fulfillment.   And yet, a billion dollars can go a long way to help entire communities, and even many small and troubled countries, insure a higher level of fulfillment for its members.

There are also lots of other fascinating implications of recognizing fulfillment of human potential as the ultimate goal – for whole societies and for each of us as individuals.

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