Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes

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

Check Price Now


Business Career Currently Reading Non Fiction Nonfiction Personal Development Psychology Self Help Self Improvement To Read

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

Mona Akmal

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


I think that I would have enjoyed this book more if I hadn't heard Patrick Lencioni speak on the subject first. His talk was based on the book, but I think that his talk was much better than the book. Lencioni has a knack for distilling a concept down to it's most basic parts.The book, in my opinion, belabors many points that could be communicated much more succinctly. Also, there were a lot of concepts that were irrelevant to me due to my biblical worldview (regarding our individual identities and how they shift over time).Worth a read, unless you can hear Lencioni.


Excellent and helpful read. My friend Sue gave me a copy as I began my current job search, and I have found it helpful and reassuring.Highly recommended!


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!


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.


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."

Johnny Stork

I have likely read well over a thousand books to date, maybe more. I have read hundreds in the categories of spirituality, comparative religion, mythology, psychology, self-development and Buddhism. Many of the hundreds stand out for various reasons. I now have a new one that I can HIGHLY recommend to everyone from young to old, satisfied or unsatisfied with their life. I can also HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone facing the stress, the uncertainty, the fear associate with transitions in their life. Moving away from your family home for the first time, changing jobs/careers, ending a relationship, facing retirement - life is filled with transitions and most of us fall into a predictable pattern of dealing with these transitions - not all of which are healthy or productive. I can’t recall the last time I read a book which had so many directly applicable insights into my own life – RIGHT NOW!I am not just impressed by this book I am BLOWN AWAY! I can’t imagine anyone NOT getting something meaningful, directly applicable, personal and illuminating, out of this exceptional book.

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.


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.

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.


I found this book tremendously helpful as I moved away from a long career in corporate. I actually bought this book after a manager workshop many years ago, but never read it. Recently it literally dropped at my feet while I was searching the attic for something else. I picked it up and could not put it down. It spoke to me about this stage of my life and career. Bridges' view of transition is that it begins with an "ending" and ends with a "beginning". The emotions that one experiences while in this state are dramatic and not to be ignored. In fact, they're to be explored and even celebrated. Amazing how the author presents these important events and how easily one can personalize it all and have it give meaning to your own life.

Jerry Jennings

This is a very valuable book on working through change.

Sean Conner

An amazing and short book, it is the missing instruction manual for life, which is basically one long string of transitions. Recommended by one of my best friends, Martina Welke =) ... top 5 books recommended to me ever.


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.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *