Insight is headed to a new world. To get there, it needs to check and change its trajectory.

Insight, a Mars lander, is scheduled to touch down on the red planet on November 26, 2018. It is on trajectory but to stay on the right path, engineers must do constant bearings. Six times during the journey, it will fire its thrusters to conduct a trajectory correction maneuver.

The lander will look for earthquake-like events on the planet. To accomplish its mission, engineers on the ground regularly check and redirect.

As crucial as these maneuvers are to Insight, they are just as vital for us.

We call them “reviews.”

Others have counseled the importance of taking a look at your life and your direction.

Shortly before drinking the hemlock, Socrates told his disciples, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The apostle Paul told the Corinthian readers (who spent much of their spiritual lives drifting), “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

For me, reviews are a regular pattern of life. Every year, my church requires me to review my work (which is then examined by the elders). Friday afternoons, I settle into a library table and for two hours take stock of where I am and where I am going. The last week of the year, I look at the “year in my life” and set intentions for the future.

I have learned that, as Insight must fire its thrusters, I need to take time to reflect, review and redirect.

Why Review Your Life?

The primary reason for blocking off time to reflect on your life is because of modern life. It moves so quickly we soon lose track of where we are and where we are going.

We drift through life. For a while, I lived close to the Gulf coast of Texas. A lot of stuff drifted ashore. Nothing of value ever drifted. It was always the flotsam and jetsam.

Life gives us our share of flotsam and jetsam. We end up with crud and cruft in life we never intended. We put on pounds, waste time, and squander money. All are subtle signals of drift.

What Do You Review?

Insight’s engineers take their readings looking for three things. The same dial views come to my library table on Fridays.

Position

Where am I? It is easy to get lost. So many tasks flow in and out, I lose track of where things stand in my life?

  • What have I done?
  • Is it what I wanted (or needed) to complete?
  • Where did I fall short?
  • What did I forget?

This is nothing more than putting my life in front of a three-way mirror and seeing what I need to look at. The view is not always pleasant, but still realistic.

Destination

The reason Insight burns its thrusters is because NASA engineers know where Mars will be shortly after Thanksgiving Day.

When you have taken your position, you know whether, if you continue on that course, you will get to where you want to go.

This is a look at the horizon. Where is that point in the future where I want to land my life?

Deviation

When you know your current position and your projected destination, you discover your deviation.

The critical question in this part of the review is “Where am I off course?”

It’s never the big things that divert us from our goals, but the small things. It’s food we know not to eat. Activities that lead nowhere populate task lists. Sometimes, life drags us off the trajectory.

  • What contributes and what doesn’t? If it doesn’t help you, it is hurting you.
  • Does it provide me energy? If not, it is an energy vampire.

Once you see that you are off-course, it’s time to burn the thrusters.

  • What do I need to change to get back on track?
  • What behaviors do I need to change? Habits to develop or drop?
  • How do I need to alter my environment?

Reviews keep you going in the right direction. When you follow the right trajectory, you arrive at the destination.

I imagine Paul the apostle was a self-evaluator. He told the Philippians,

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

In a little less than a month, a final burn will drop Insight onto the Martian surface. The bearings and course corrections plant it accurately.

When you get to the end of your life, will you be able to say the thing?

When will you schedule your next review?