Some paths are inherently self-defeating. The I Ching very succinctly describes one of the most classic dead-end paths this way:
“He who seeks nourishment that does not nourish reels from desire to gratification and in gratification craves desire. Mad pursuit of pleasure for the satisfaction of the senses never brings one to the goal. One should never follow this path, for nothing good can come of it.”
A dead-end path is one that leads away from the experience of meaning. Typically we are following what we want, not what we need. The path of allowing the ends to justify the means is also a dead-end path, because the journey is the destination. When you seek your ultimate fulfillment by capturing a “precious,” an obsessive object of desire glittering in the outer world, that is a dead-end path. When you seek the inner wholeness you already have by pursuing a beloved, that is a dead-end path. If you want to follow the path with heart, rather than a dead-end path, ask of yourself, “Will I remember this well on my deathbed?” Dead-end paths can’t hold up to such scrutiny.