The Red Line

What does it take to draw a red line in the sand? How much is too much? Where is your boundary, and when you reach it… what will you do about it?

Some of us are very clear about this line. Some of us see the line, recognize it as the last possible place of leniency, and stand firm in that space. Others are vague about what it will take to break their proverbial chain, and might deflect the moment and tell you that they’ll know the line when they see it.

Knowing the line is knowing yourself. It’s not a stretch to say that many of us don’t actually know ourselves. We think we do. We think we know how much sleep we need, what we like to eat and who we like to be with. Often we discover what that final boundary is when someone crosses it, and we find ourselves cornered in a physical/energetic life or death situation. The truth is that by the time this confrontation happens, the amount of collateral damage can potentially be great. The more time we spend delving into the depths of our personage honestly and openly, the more likely we are to identify our proverbial red line and stand with conviction on the other side of it.



One of the most common ways people cross boundaries is with time. They will hold you in a conversation longer than you want, even if all of the main points of the conversation have been satisfied. If you are willing to allow this, clearly the other person has not reached your time boundary. Even if you complain about it, the premise is false simply because you allowed it. Knowing yourself is also taking accountability for your choices in any given situation. And if you choose to allow someone to usurp your time, complaining about it later does not negate that choice.

That time suck doesn’t have to come in the form of a face to face conversation. Some people text with the expectation that you ought to respond immediately. Same for email. Whether personally or in business, some entities will pepper you with correspondence with the expectation that you respond immediately. Interestingly enough, those same entities might take days… even weeks… to respond to you. It’s easy to get bullied into doing the bidding of another simply because they are impatient and demand your time. While time can be of the essence, time that depletes your spirit is not. Recognizing this and having the courage to take a stand in kind can take the very thing that you are trying to recover… time.

Once you recognize your boundary, it’s key to establish it in such a way that it cannot be bluffed away or moved. Typically this requires a healthy dose of kindness, compassion, and pragmatism. If those who cross your boundaries are close to you and will be negatively impacted, the way that you make space for yourself matters. This is true in business and personal matters. In business, it may help to keep bankers hours. Personally, set a time when you respond to phone calls and texts, and leave yourself the freedom to move those times as you see fit. It’s perfectly acceptable to be unavailable in the interest of looking after your physical and energetic well being. It’s also acceptable to refuse any explanation for your lack of availability. Naturally, you should weigh your options on a case by case basis, but know that you are the person who has to live with your choices. If you choose to consciously deplete yourself with time and energy, you are the person who has to pay for that choice.


Turn off your phone. Set it up ahead to sleep at any given time of day, or manually silence the phone. If it helps you feel better, set up a filter to allow certain emergency calls to come through.

Set a time to answer emails. Corporate professionals do this often. If you email them at midnight, you’ll get an answer sometime after bankers hours. They understand that time is currency, and they have no interest in simply giving it away. New wave entrepreneurs will tell you that the continual grind (even at great cost to yourself) is the only way. To be ever available, to work until everything physically ceases to function, to answer emails at 2am (even if the person who sent it is fast asleep)… they’ll have you believe that there is some glory in what essentially amounts to self abuse. The key is to work smarter, not harder. Knowing the value of your time, is knowing the value of your self.

Say no. Mean it. The more you grow (personally and professionally) the more likely you are to attract those curious about your habits and philosophies. This curiosity, while harmless, can be a detriment to your time and ultimately your person. It’s okay for someone to ask. It’s also okay for you to refuse. It’s even better to do so with kindness, compassion, and pragmatism. In this way you protect yourself and you protect the one(s) you are dealing with… and protect the relationship so that it can grow in a positive way.


Part of finding positive longevity is to play a long game. If we invest the time in reflection versus reaction, there’s a better chance that we get to  know ourselves and truly recognize where our proverbial red line exists.


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