Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes

ISBN: 073820904X
ISBN 13: 9780738209043
By: William Bridges

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About this book

Whether it is chosen or thrust upon you, change brings both opportunities and turmoil. Since first published 25 years ago, Transitions has helped hundreds of thousands of readers cope with these issues by providing an elegantly simple yet profoundly insightful roadmap of the transition process. With the understanding born of both personal and professional experience, William Bridges takes readers step by step through the three stages of any transition: The Ending, The Neutral Zone, and, in time, The New Beginning. Bridges explains how each stage can be understood and embraced, leading to meaningful and productive movement into a hopeful future. With a new introduction highlighting how the advice in the book continues to apply and is perhaps even more relevant today, and a new chapter devoted to change in the workplace, Transitions will remain the essential guide for coping with the one constant in life: change.

Reader's Thoughts

Emily Green

I do not usually read books that might fall under the category if self-help. I will read fiction and poetry and reflect on how it relates to my life, but I do not turn to non-fiction for help. However, I am very appreciative that a friend lent me Transitions in order to help me through my big move to Princeton. Transitions reflects on the three stages of big life changes and offers advice to help the reader with these changes. Bridges identifies the three stages as ending, neutral zone, and beginning. He discusses the three periods in terms of the emotional experience and compares today's lives with the old rites of passage. By putting transitions into a different context and providing example from a discussion group Bridges hosted, he is able to provide not just advice, but also a bit of objectivity. The result for the reader is not easy answers, because there are no easy answers during periods of great upheaval. Instead, Bridges provides the more important elements of comfort and hope.


Transitions are inevitable...and often unsettling, frightening, or confusing--even when the transition is overall a positive one. I retired a few months ago, and someone helping me transition from busy teacher to retiree suggested that this book might be helpful. It was. I had looked forward to many good things with retirement, but to my surprise despite my anticipation, not everything was rosy. Through Bridges' book I realized that I was not nuts; many others struggled with the same loss that I was going through. Transitions may be the obvious one like loss of a loved one, losing a job, moving away from a home and friends. They also include job promotions, birth of a baby, losing weight and more. This book discusses the stages of endings, the neutral zone, and finally the new beginning. This is a helpful road map for successfully navigating change and moving into successful new activities. If you are someone you care about is going through change, tell them about Transitions--Making Sense of Life's Changes.


The Career Transitions group at my church was working with this book and I found it very helpful. Bridges distinguishes between changes- a shift in one's situation- moving, new job, marriage, divorce, death of family member etc. and transition- the psychological reactions one goes through as a result of the change. He studied how various traditional cultures structure rites of passage to help people move through transitions, and notes that they are often much better at dealing with these things than our seemingly advanced modern culture. He explains how we go through a 3 stage of transition process- Ending, Neutral Zone in which you are in neither one stage or another and feeling lost, and Beginning. This book is relevant to people in many different life situations and so you can return to it again when going through another transition for more insight. It really helped me make sense of many of my experiences and feel less lost and confused.


Our area received this book from AVR. Every section I read has been helpful during my time of transition. He just names the feelings and experiences I've been having and makes me feel less crazy. I'd recommend it to anyone in the midst of transition. I just finished the book yesterday. I'd say that there are some really good sections and some average parts. He is not writing a Christian book (I am not sure of his spiritual background), so keep that in mind. I do think it would be interesting to study people in transition in the Bible, like the Israelites as they leave Egypt. I like that he includes literary allusions, like Odysseus and Psyche and Amor. He made me want to re-read the Odyssey!

Loy Machedo

William Bridges is an internationally known speaker, author, and consultant who advises individuals and organizations in how to deal productively with change. His ten books include an expanded third edition of his best-seller, Managing Transitions (2009), and the updated second edition of Transitions (2004), which together have sold over one million copies. He focuses on the Transition, or psychological reorientation, people must go through to come to terms with changes in their lives. His three-phase model of Endings, Neutral Zone and New Beginnings is widely known. Educated originally in the humanities at Harvard, Columbia, and Brown Universities, he was (until his own career change in 1974) a professor of American Literature at Mills College, Oakland, CA. He is a past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology. The Wall Street Journal listed him as one of the top ten independent executive developmentTransitions - Moving, Change of Environment, College, New Jobs, Relationships, Divorce, Marriage, Child, Death in the Family, Job Loss are all challenges in life. In this book, the author provides solutions to deal with such transitions. According to the author, Transition by itself has three stages that overlap, come and go.1. Endings: It is useful to identify what is ending in your life. 2. Neutral Zone: This can look and feel like Pointless, Aimless & Rudderless. 3. New Beginnings: The next phase. The book is also divided into three sections.The Need for ChangeThe Transition ProcessAnd finally a very interesting Epilogue. In the Epilogue, Bridges uses the story of Psyche and Amor, and the trials of Psyche in her task to be reunited with Amor, to illustrate the power of transitions. Moment of TruthI felt the book really dragged itself out quite a bit. But then to think about it, I do not know how else could the author have said it differently. Many times I felt he was just repeating himself over and over again. Surprisingly, I myself went into a depression after reading this book and took a few days to contemplate about my life. So I believe this book has substance and may relate to people at different points of their life. Overall Rating 7 out of 10 for its wisdom. 4 out of 10 for boring me with its repetitive nature. Loy |

Susan Kavanaugh

This is a book for anyone living a life. It is only "self help" in that it gives you a clearer idea of what change and transition are. With this clarity, one gains a great deal more patience with themselves and others in transition. I read this in the midst of processing a spouses death, but will recommend and reread it frequently in good and bad situations. They all require skills in juggling the uncertainties of shifting sands.

Jerry Jennings

This is a very valuable book on working through change.

Michael James

This book was one of the recommendations to me while going through my divorce. I was also very active in teaching change management classes in corporate America. Frankly, this book helped me to put a simple yet profound framework around the process of change. Equally important was the revelation from this book that change actually begins with an ending. So much focus is on next steps, or a new beginning, that we forget to consider all of the losses.Outstanding book for those going through change or wanting to deepen their understanding of the process of change.


I have recommended this book to many clients. In particularly those going through any sort of change or upheaval in their life (even apparently positive changes).This very practical book takes you through the 3 stages of any effective transition. First there must be an ending, then a neutral zone, followed by a new beginning. Packed with common sense and clear examples of why change is difficult when we seek to embark on a new beginning without having first leg go of our attachment to how things used to be.Particularly reassuring are the chapters dealing with the “Neutral zone” – that feeling of sadness that often goes hand in hand with major change as we give up the familiar and embrace the new and unfamiliar. I would describe this as an essential guide to coping with change whether job losses, new jobs, new relationships and relationship break-ups, or moving house – the applications are almost limitless.


As a man blindly careering toward a midlife crisis, I was interested to read a book that sought to explain how people transition from one life phase to another.I was particularly intrigued to learn how to do so in a healthy and reasonably normal way (not that I ever aspire to normality, but as I'm talking about territory that is personally uncharted, I'm happy to hold hands with someone who knows the best way through).I wasn't disappointed.At least not initially.Bridges (an apt name) talks about a "transition" being different from a "change".A change, in his definition, is about behaviours: doing things differently. A transition is about a deeper thing, a state of being, it's about being someone else.Changes can lead to transition and transition can lead to changes, but they're not quite the same thing.The transition phase is then made up of three stages: ending, the neutral zone, and lastly a new beginning. This is the crux of the whole book: you have to end the previous phase, go through the emptiness and confusion of the neutral zone before emerging ready for the new beginning.At first I was glued to it. The opening chapters, explaining the above process, were real learning experiences for me that I eagerly devoured, but as the book wore on, it became a bit circular and repetitive, the illustrative stories feeling a little simplistic and the points rather laboured.I would have preferred a longer book with more depth (referencing other sources) that would have felt a lot more substantial. It whets the appetite rather than giving you a satisfying feed, so that even after reading what is a readable and interesting book, I didn't feel I had a deep-enough understanding of its central thesis.

Bill Donhiser

I pick up this book as part of the required reading I was to complete during a management class. I ran short of time and did not tackle it when I should have. It is well written and has some good points but I rely did not gain much from the reading. Hope it is more helpful for you


One of the best books I have read. Insightful and thought provoking! Took me on a journey I didn't know I needed to go on, but am so glad I did. A couple favorite quotes, "We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new one--not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are. There we are, living in a new town, but our heads are full of the old trivia...""One of the ways that you could divide the histories of most relationships into chapters would be by starting with "whose way we did things when we first got together," followed by "whose way we did things after that first arrangement broke down," followed by an alternating series of times when one or the other dominated the field of power. Sometimes, the shifts from one to the other are gradual; at other times, they are explosive: "That's it! I'm done with your something-or-other." But however they occur, the shifts are major transitions in the life of the relationship. Each time, both parties have to let go of how things used to be, go through a confusing neutral zone during which a new agreement is forged, and then launch the beginning of some new way of being together.""...externally in relationships, where new beginnings often bring conflict and even a sense of betrayal. The person's imminent change sets off danger signals in the other, for it rightly suggests that the old tacit agreements on which the relationship was based are headed for renegotiation. "You be this way and I'll be that way" doesn't work any more, because now I want to be that way and you...well, you will have to do some changing, too. A situations such as this must be dealt with openly and honestly, for indirection and denial only increase the other's resistance."


This little book is one of the first that I've read that deals with all the psychological and relational shifts involved in a state of transition or change. I wish I'd read this earlier in my life.This could be read by anyone who has left school, gotten married, lost a partner, changed jobs or careers, lost a family member or had a baby. So in other words, everyone!It's not self-helpy and it's not esoteric. It's very practical and allows one to reflect on times of change.***I first heard about it from my friend Kaari, who mentioned it in her livejournal.I plan to get a copy for those tough times of rediscovery ahead in my life.


William Bridges was an American literature professor before he became a change consultant. If for no other reason, "Transitions" is a joy and a revelation. Bridges fashioned this seminal book on change around the quest of mythical heroes; the central theme is both captivating and inspiring. "Transitions" was originally written in 1980 and remains fresh. This book was the first to describe the three stages of transition (endings, the neutral zone, new beginnings) and to stress the importance of experiencing all three for successful change. Whether your transition is personal or professional, "Transitions" is the perfect starting point to make sense of it.


This book can provide a lifeline to any individual encountering a significant life change, positive or negative. I recommend it to people undergoing voluntary or involuntary career changes, but it’s just as valuable for first-time parents or people considering retirement. It can serve as a tremendous foundation for working with change efforts within organizations, but first you have to experience it on a personal, individual level. Bridges describes how an external change is part of a larger, mostly hidden underlying process he refers to as “transition.” Transition is composed of three stages: endings, the neutral zone, and new beginnings. It is the neutral zone, that combination of terror and exhilaration, exhaustion and energy, in which we confront our deepest fears, and experience our greatest growth. In addition to describing each phase, Bridges offers suggestions for experiencing the lessons of each phase most fully. One of the books I recommend the most to others.

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