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


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.

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.

Mona Akmal

Excellent read, especially if you're going through a career change, life stage change or breakup


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.

John Fletcher

So impressed with this book. I think I'm adding it to my yearly read list. It's a great book about life's hard transitions that everyone goes through and as adults we seem to go through more frequently. Talks through the idea of change versus transition. He has a great model on how transitions unfold. Really validated some ways to dealing with transition and how to embrace it to receive the things your supposed to receive. I think it's a great mentor for anyone due to life's many transitions.


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.


Worth reading if you are going through any of life's transitions. A reference and mentor recommended it to me as I was encountering "a time in between" with my career. It kept the focus on the long-term and was very enriching and uplifting.


When I started my new job there were a couple weeks’ worth of appointments already loaded in my Outlook calendar. One of them the second week was labeled “Transition Meeting”. Those invited to attend were the adult services staff and the library director. I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being a positive experience. That meeting was based on the concepts presented in Transitions by William Bridges. When life shifts happen, there are a few “universal” phases that almost everyone goes through, whether they realize it or not. This book is not really a how-to book for facing those challenging phases, but a book to put the phases in perspective and provide clues for how to respond and accept the emotions that are likely to pop up during the transition time. This book was originally written in 1979 but was then updated in 2004. It was a useful book, if at times frustrating. When I read self-help books I like to get a step-by-step plan out of the experience. The point of the book is that there is no way to plan your way through a transition, you just have to learn to accept and grow, so the frustration is more internal than directed at this book. It is comforting to me as someone going through a transition, so I would suggest it as a good read to others facing changes in their lives.

Ev Mungovan mccaffrey pape

I found this to be a very insightful book, describing the stages involved with major life transitions. As Bridges describes these, they could be internal as well as external transitions. Having lived through many life transitions myself, I found that his description of these stages rang true for me: first, the ending (of a stage, a relationship, a goal); second, the uncomfortable in-between, living in limbo stage; and last, the new beginning. This was a fresh perspective on change, especially on deep and meaningful life changes. After reading it, I felt a deeper understanding of myself and my life changes, which made this an invaluable read for this former psychology major. I highly recommend it!

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.

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 |

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.


I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's very sexist and outdated regarding gender roles, to a laughable extent, at times. On the other hand, I found certain passages very moving, articulate and insightful. Sift through the 1950s caveman mentality and keep the gems. I got some good ones from the chapters about work life transitions and endings, neutral zone, beginnings. The difference between 'change' and 'transition' was eloquently defined.


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!

Jerry Jennings

This is a very valuable book on working through change.

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