Some paths are inherently self-defeating. The I Ching 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 leads away from the experience of meaning. Typically, we follow what we want, not what we need. 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’s a dead-end path. When you seek the inner wholeness you already have by pursuing an attractive person, that is a dead-end path.
If you want to follow the path with heart that takes you toward the experience of meaning rather than a dead-end path, ask yourself at any crossroads, “Will I remember this well on my deathbed?” Dead-end paths can’t hold up to such scrutiny.