Much is made of the practices and beliefs that are required to achieve enlightenment, but we have to be good human beings first.
If we discriminate against other people on the basis of skin colour, gender, or other characteristics over which they do not have a significant amount of control, and which do not exist beyond the personality, we are saying that we ourselves are not entitled to seek enlightenment. It can only be obtained by the persistent ability to see beyond such characteristics, and is not prevented by any of them. By indulging in such prejudices, we sabotage our spiritual growth.
So the first step on the path to enlightenment is to be a good human being. That requires tolerance and a generosity of outlook towards others, but it does not mean supporting those who seek to prevent others from seeking enlightenment, for it is the right of every one of us to do so. It means supporting ourselves and others to live a healthy life where we can choose our own path, as long as we don't stop others from doing the same.
There are many things we can do to bring ourselves closer to enlightenment, but all of them will involve aspects of the non-secular 8-fold path, both in contemplation and actively in real-time control of our thinking. While we can never be perfect in our efforts, it is the trying that brings us closer. While we may not achieve enlightenment in a lifetime, the process will enable us to be better people, with more compassion and control over our being.
In a way, being a humanist is a better preparation for living a spiritual life than any amount of religiosity, as it involves none of the arrogance nor exclusivity. Working for better lives for all people is grounding and provides a solid foundation for having the right perspective about our own development. It is not a race, as advancement for any one of us lifts us all up, and cooperation is the best way to do that. We may not have the dharma to be part of some humanitarian aid initiative, but we can do what we can in any aspect of our work and home lives.
Competitiveness blocks us from enlightenment, as it puts ourselves as being more important than others. It is the means by which the enlightenment of masses is prevented, and is used by those who do not want us to be free as human beings. While at times we may temporarily feel anger for those who treat us so, in the long run it is enough to prevent them from being able to keep having such an influence. In the meantime, we can resist their overtures and make others aware of their attempts to diminish our ability to choose our own life path.
Enlightenment is the freedom from the prejudices of our personalities, but it is not a rejection of our personalities per se, because it relies on the conscious cooperation of them by the millions of choices to be a better human being they make on our paths. Our personalities are not our enemies, but our partners on the path. Give them space when needed, and they will be less resistant. Being even-handed with ourselves and others is the right balance that opens us to enlightenment.