Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, Revised 25th Anniversary Edition

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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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Helpful for all sorts of life transitions
    I've always taken a relentlessly positive approach to losses: if your job goes away (for whatever reason), find a new one promptly; if a romance goes phfft, go out and get involved in some activity where you'll meet new people; etc. I wouldn't let myself feel any negative emotions about the situation, let alone express them to anyone else ("I'm not a whiner," I told myself). However, after years of doing this, I realized that my life seemed to be getting narrower and duller. This book helped to show me why: having never dealt with the pain associated with previous transitions, I was subconsciously choosing the "safer" alternative rather than taking any risks that might lead to yet another painful loss.
    Last year I was laid off from my job. This time I let myself experience the anger and feelings of betrayal that this aroused in me, and I expressed those feelings to my family and a few close friends. Interestingly, I found some short-term free-lance work almost immediately, then took a short vacation, and three weeks after I returned I had another job! I don't say it was cause and effect, but this was one of the less painful transitions I've gone through. This is a GREAT book....more info
  • Another Self Help Book
    I did have to buy this book for a class and I view it as a total waste. It is just another self help book...if you wish to stray away from the reality of life and have something to blame your problems on this is the book for you....more info
  • Personal Awareness
    I worked for a company for almost ten years. I worked long hours and made personal sacrifices for the company to contribute to its growth. I enjoyed many promotions, worked with top 100 companies and had a great salary. Life was good and I was planning for retirement at age 55, it was possible the way things were I thought...

    I was unemployed for almost 10 months, submerged in a deep state of depression. To get out of it and do something useful with my life I started a Master degree. My first course required writing a personal essay after reading this book.

    This book allowed me to change my personal perspective. I understood what I was going through. It was my light at the end of the tunnel. It made a difference in my life and gave me hope at a personal but most important at a professional level.

    I strongly recommend this book, especially to those that have suffered a great impact due to a layoff....more info

  • Hope-Filled Guide to Life's Changes

    A friend pointed me toward this book. In a very short space of time he lost a child, lost his home, lost his job, and watched his remaining children leave for college. How did he survive such major life changes? This book was certainly a part of his survival tool kit. Later, when I was facing a major life change, he directed me to this resource. I found it enlightening and reassuring. This book is a definite 5-stars for anyone going through major life change.
    ...more info
  • THE Original Bridges Work on Transitions
    William Bridges wrote this book when he first started work in the area of transitions. He lays out well the 3 stages of transition - ending, neutral zone, beginning. He intersperses stories of how he developed his theory, too. This is a good starting point if you are an individual. However, I think Bridges' best book is Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change....more info
  • How to Identify the Patterns in Life Transition?
    The depth of the book is that it is not a manual on "how to cope", but gets us to see that the process of disorganisation, death and renewal is fundamental to nature and a central theme in mythology. The moral is: Focus less on whether an event is good or bad, but whether or not it involves an important change of life for you. And don't be worried if the event seems relatively inconsequential; it may be merely the most obvious symbol of change, when there are deeper rumblings in the psychological ground beneath. Transitions happen throughout our lives and don't necessarily correspond to a set age. Following is a rough outline of Bridge's 3 stages of transition: (1). To have a new beginning you need to acknowledge an ending; (2). The point is to pay attention to your changes and thoughts and (3). Be easy on yourself and maintain at least some form of continuity with your old life. Fresh with your insights from limbo time. The authorv summarizes his book by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great"....more info
  • truth in myth
    This book remained a very close 'friend' of mine until I'd read every part so many times that it turned stale and I had to find another source of reassurance during a life change. But that speaks to the book's most challenging lesson: trusting the change we are going through even while others don't seem terribly interested. Two things I liked in particular about the book: one was the use of mythology or literature rather than psychology as source of wisdom and truth (Freud knew where to turn, too). Another was the point that transitions happen again and again over the course of one's life; developmental theories saying that "mid-life" crises happen only at 40 (whatever) are too simplistic and inflexible. Sheehy's Passages was exposed as overly linear and uni-directional in its stages and dated in its conception of gender roles. Both this book and Levoy's make the important point also that the 'change' can take years and may or may not include some kind of godsend or 'sign' of good to come. But they urge you to keep going through the motions to keep the potential for the sign alive....more info
  • A Very Helpful Book: Comes in Handy Over and Over Again
    I bought this book about five years ago and it helped me make sense of a change in my life. The book is exceptionally well written. The author writes simply and clearly. The text uses plain English, is free of jargon and is accessible to anyone who can read. The book explains the importance of endings and why one should not try to rush through them. Bridges explains about moving from the ending to to a place in between ending and beginning that he describes as the "Neutral Zone" a difflicult period that may seem as though it won't end but Bridges encourages readers not to rush through it and assures them that it too shall pass and lead to a new beginning. He explains that the new beginning cannot be rushed but will happen when you are ready.

    This is a thoughtful and very loving book. I have returned to this book several times in the years I've owned it and each time I have found it helpful. The publication date is unimportant as the text is timeless....more info

  • Foundational Book for All Change Implementation Professionals
    This book was the first book that I read on emotional change and transition (almost 20 years ago). I have recommended this book to hundreds of people because I have experienced the impact that understanding how to cope with change and transition can have on an individual.

    I was fortunate enough to spend a week studying with Mr. Bridges at the CapeCod Institute in 2002 after the launch of his sequel, The Way of Transition. The course was targeted for the helping professions to offer perspective on how people cope with life change and more importantly, how we can support them through it. I was one of the few management consultants in the room amongst pastors, nurses, therapists, teachers, non-profit directors, etc. Needless to say, I was blown away by how limited my view was on the human condition and by how important it is to hold it up, honor it, and respect it both inside and outside of work.

    The concepts here are authentic, simple, and compassionate and I believe that they apply to intense, complex, chaotic work environments like large-scale strategic, organizational change, and cross-enterprise initiatives. I strongly believe that as consultants and coaches, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to support our clients by:

    *helping them self-identify with how they are dealing with transition while leading change
    *reminding them of their compassion for others as they get out their swords for a proverbial "land grab"
    *providing their stakeholders with a framework and language to relate to as people vs. work
    *teaching executives that the best strategy is to "go slow, to go fast" when it comes to building trust and gaining productivity

    So, here's to Mr. Bridges for the legacy of human understanding and compassion in terms that we can all understand and implement for ourselves and for others. ...more info
  • Disappointing
    I've read many books on undergoing significant life changes and this one was the poorest. I was misled that his PhD was in psychology or another related area. It's probably in English or other. He refers to Alice in Wonderland, TS Eliot, Zen and others who aren't part of behavior science. Comforting? No. Enlightening? In an obtuse approach, other self help books are far better. His writing style is removed from the subject and doesn't really cover all that is involved in a life transition....more info
  • A light-bulb moment condensed into a book
    An icon in its field. The book helps understand the difference between change and transition. It has universal apppication: personal, professional or cultural; across any stage in life and any situation.

    I found the strong process parallels with Khubler-Ross' work ("On Death & Dying") very interesting.

    An easy, quick read.

    Buy a good cover - you are going to read this many times over....more info

  • Understanding life's changes
    This book examines in detail the transitions that we all encounter in our lives and presents strategies to effectively deal with them. The author identifies various transitions that we may go through in all aspects of our lives, including relationships and work. In order to work through a transition in our life, we must go through the three stages of transition: endings, the neutral zone, and the new beginning. Depending on the particular transition, the length of each stage may vary. However, before something new can begin, something else must end. Following the ending, we spend a period of time in the neutral zone which prepares us for the new beginning. There are many examples of real transitions within the book that many people will be able to identify with (change of jobs, marriages, etc)....more info
  • A continually useful book...
    even though I first read it in 1987 to help me move consciously through a transition (which has never really ended). I find myself in such a transition moment now, and this book still speaks to my needs, it still makes sense of personal transitions as the blessings they can be for those who can sit with the experience....more info
  • Reader from Reading, PA
    This book was okay, but it basicaly gave me no real information on dealing with transitions. I thought it would be much more in depth than it was and came from it, not too impressed. I think a little more effort into the book and could of been really good....more info
  • Transformative
    I read this book in Seminary. It is a book that shares how the transitions of our lives shape and transform us in ways we cannot and could not on our own. This book encourages people to stay centered and trust the process of transitions. In the end, you will see how we are created again and again surfacing deeper aspects of our being. This process toward wholeness is one that you and I can observe, reflect, and be engaged in personally. TRANSITIONS has helpful insights to guide us through all phases of human developement. Samuel Oliver, author of, WHAT THE DYING TEACH US: LESSONS ON LIVING....more info
  • A great guide for undergoing THOSE times
    Not only do I think of this book as one of the all time greats for the subject matter, this book is used as a text in both graduate and undergraduate degree programs at DePaul University in Chicago. Every student and professor with whom I've discussed this publication agrees, whether male or female, young or old. It is powerful....more info
  • The Gift that Keeps on Giving
    This is one book that every person born should have on their bookshelf! I'm only sorry it took me 56 years of "changes" vs "transitions" to find it. I'm buying a copy for all my friends....more info
  • When it's time to change...
    In a recent survey, people were asked to list the most disturbing and disruptive things in their lives, and rank them according to difficulty to handle. It was seen that the highest proportion of difficulties involved transitions in people lives -- moving, new jobs, divorce, marriage, new child, death, etc. Surprisingly, there is not a great body of work dealing specifically with transitions and methods for coping and dealing with transitions in life. William Bridges provides a useful, accessible, and needed book on this important topic.

    The book is divided into two broad topics: The Need for Change and The Transition Process. There is a brief epilogue following.

    Part 1: The Need for Change
    Americans seem, much more than people from more traditional, more grounded, and more static cultures, to always be in a state of transition, moving from one thing to another, both personally and professionally. This can be seen in the increasing pace of career-change, personal relocation, divorce and remarriage rates (which only scratch the surface of the larger transitional base of undocumented relationships), and so on. One could say that American culture is built upon constant transition (and some Marxists thought they were developing a system of institutionalised revolution -- they could probably never outdo modern American society for that!)

    Being in transition is natural, but sometimes a confusing state, not simply because of the situational difficulties, but because they are not supposed to be difficult to handle.

    `The big events -- divorce, death, losing a job, and other obviously painful changes -- are easy to spot. But others, like marriage, sudden success, and moving to your dream house, are forgotten because they are 'good events' and therefore not supposed to lead to difficulty. We expect to be distressed at illness, but it is a shock to find recovery leading to difficulty.'

    Anyone who has returned from a big holiday trip knows the truth of this -- how often does one feel 'I need a vacation to recover from my vacation'?

    Modern psychologists have identified different stages in life -- different psychologists offer up frameworks that vary in the particulars, but what they all have in common is a recognition of struggles and adjustment periods as one makes transition from the various stages, from childhood to adolescence, to young adulthood, etc. These are transitions that underlie the situational transitions. Like the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx, the answer to dealing with transitions depends upon understanding what underpins the human being.

    The two greatest areas of transition that are addressed in this text surround those issues involving love and work. Other transitions occur, but few concern us that do not concern one of these issues. All our relationships with others, as well as our internal integrity issues, relate in some way to these two issues. Bridges provides some background, as well as a checklist to follow for understanding the transition.

    Part 2: The Transition Process
    It seems somewhat trite to say, but every ending can be a new beginning. The essence of the transition process lies in this statement. What most people overlook in making this statement is that most transitions are not smooth progressions from point A to B. There is a disruption, a confusion, often a sadness, sometimes an elation, but in every case some period of adjustment to the positive and negative changes that have occurred. Some cultures have specified timeframes for grief and mourning that assist in times of death; the honeymoon is meant to be a transitional period after marriage (a term co-opted by others who wish to have a smoother period of introduction after a change -- as in political honeymoons after a transition of government).

    It is unfortunate that most neglect to properly grieve for things that are important but are not the 'actual death of a person'. We don't allow ourselves to grieve for the lost job, the lost relationship, the lost community when one moves -- we know and recognise there has been a change, but we are reluctant to call it grief, and thus not always able to deal with the issues properly. This is perhaps the greatest contribution of Bridges -- to put processes together to permit adjustment periods. Only when this is done may the truly new beginning be made. The conclusion of Part 2 deals with new beginnings.

    The importance of keeping our grounding as human beings is emphasised over and over, so that we don't rush ourselves into a new beginning prematurely -- even if circumstances require the change (your job ended, and a new one starts immediately), you can work through the transition process to internally cope better with the change, giving up the old and embracing the new in a healthy manner.

    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. There will be help along the way, but the greatest task still remains one of personal responsibility. There are no guaranteed happy endings, either.

    This book is an interesting and helpful guide to understanding the constantly changing milieu in which we live from the standpoint of personally coping with change. As a society, we are undergoing various changes, the dramatic nature and radical impacts of which are unlikely to be fully known for years, if not decades. If ever a book on coping with transitions was needed, it is now.

    The author, William Bridges, is a writer, lecturer, and consultant on human development. He taught at Mills College (California), and operates transition seminars in the western United States. He was president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology....more info

  • Transition Is Not Change
    Transitions by William Bridges walks you through transitions. He makes good distinctions in the differences between loss and grieving, simple change, and transitions. This belongs in your owner's manual for living.

    Change has a goal. Transitions don't. In a transition, you have no idea where your path leads. To sedate myself, I often imagine the transition I am in is a simple change. This looks and feels like the denial process of grief.

    I say to myself, "We're just moving to a place without stairs." Deep down where I avoid looking, I recognize this simple change is really transition. Our lives will turn upside down and I don't know who I will be or who we will be on the other side.

    Transition has three stages that overlap, come and go.

    1. Endings: It is useful to identify what is ending in your life. For instance, my life as a father with children living at home is ending.

    2. Neutral Zone: This can look and feel like depression. Things go flat, rudderless, ambitionless. Time spent alone in silence, in nature works wonders.

    3. New Beginnings: You cautiously begin the new ways of living. The desire, of course, is to leap to the new beginnings before paying the dues of steps 1 & 2. I promise you, there is no short cut. You will pay those dues one way or another before you truly can begin. I suggest you pay them cheerfully and proactively by scheduling the time needed. It goes fastest that way.

    ...more info
  • Classic manual on dealing with life transitions
    In 1970, William Bridges, an English professor, was experiencing a difficult time in his life. A scholar, he decided to learn all that he could about the psychology of transition. Eventually, he taught a course in it; then he developed his ideas into a book, which quickly became the definitive source on the topic. Psychologists, counselors and other mental health professionals recognized it as a breakthrough self-help text. With insights, information and concepts that you'll be able to apply to everyday life, Bridges leads you through an often angst-ridden process. With his advice, you'll identify and understand your personal development timeline and learn to use change to your advantage. Transitions, ultimately, result in achieving real growth, both spiritually and psychologically. We recommend this classic book to people anticipating or in the midst of professional or personal turning points....more info
  • This book was a turning point for me.
    When I was divorced, I was in a rush to move forward toward -- something. That's how I was raised, to keep on moving even if I didn't really know where I was going! "Transitions" made so much sense. We need time out, an interval, in which to quietly acknowledge what is past, whether it's a marriage, a job, or a home town, a time to simply be. I declared an intown vacation, didn't answer the phone, did no work and, to my amazement, finally met "me." Thank you, William Bridges. I now include personal "intervals" as integral parts of ALL major life transitions!

    Linda Senn, author of "Your Pocket Divorce Guide," co-author of "The Divorce Recovery Journal"...more info

  • Highly recommended for anyone undergoing changes.
    I am a psychotherapist and often recommend Bridges' book for my clients who are in the midist of painful transitions, such as relationship breakup, career change, ending something and uncertain about what's next, etc. The concept of an "empty space" between ending the old and beginning the new is especially helpful....more info
  • An outstanding guide to handling life's changes
    I can't say enough about Transitions. Bridges takes an in-depth look at the process of change and how to understand it and handle it. He explains that each change in life is a transition consisting of an ending, a neutral zone, and a new beginning. Each part of the transition and how to deal with it is described, together with real life examples and analysis of familiar transition stories taken from the Odyssey and Greek mythology. Most importantly, Bridges explains how to take care of yourself so you can make it through life's bumps and scrapes. It's an excellent resource for anyone having trouble dealing with change of any kind....more info
  • This book has changed me both personally and professionally.
    I think it is fabulous the way William Bridges "translated" what happens to all of us as we go through changes, into such an easy to understand model. It immediately made sense to me. As a consultant in Organization Development, I've been able to share his findings with people and organizations, since I first read this book, which was 1988. This is a must for anyone who is going through changes and/or is a change agent. It doesn't matter what country you are working in or where the people you are working with are from....more info
  • Liked the original better
    I gave away my copy of Bridges'original offering. I found this book to be acceptable but not as direct as the first book....more info
  • Tough to read, but valuable
    This book deals with the general topic of dealing with dramatic events in one's life, such as divorce, loss of a job, death of a loved one, etc. It is difficult to read, for several reasons. I found the first half of the book to be very depressing. In addition, unless you are a scholar of ancient Greek literature, it may be difficult to understand all of the analogies Bridges is trying to draw. And the topics are just plain deep. Bridges outlines three phases of any of life's transitions: an ending, a period of confusion, and a new beginning. Bridges seems to want people to acknowledge their endings, and offers some good advice for handling the middle period (although I doubt many people would sit down and write their autobiographies). If you are going through a transition, and trying to make sense of why it is occuring to you (what caused the ending?), I don't think this book will help much. This book is more for people who are focusing forward, not backward....more info
  • Very insightful.
    On behalf of the millions of us facing major life changes such as retirement or the loss of a parent or spouse, I found this book to be timely and very helpful in explaining the 'transition' to a different life paradigm. And what a relief to know that the 'transition' can happen before the change. I am recommending it to my fellow "boomer" friends! ...more info
  • Clear thinking with some important and not so obvious ideas
    Last summer I was stewing over a couple major life decisions each of which would have dramatic and irreversible consequences. A trusted friend highly recommended this book so I gave it a look, even though I'm not a self-help book fan and am extremely skeptical of counselors in general.

    I was pleasantly surprised. The author very accurately described what I was feeling at the time, then went on to offer sensible explanations and advice, some from perspectives I don't think I would have reached on my own.

    This book increased my confidence in my decisions, and I am happy with the result of same. Recommended....more info

  • Eye-Opening
    My understanding of transitions has been turned upside-down. I am grateful for the knowledge that has shed light on some tough, tough periods of my life. Bridges is right... it all makes sense now....more info
  • Worth reading if you have a traumatic change.
    The book "Transitions" by William Bridges (appropriately named :-) tells us that, following a traumatic change in our lives, we can look forward to three stages: The first is the chaotic roller-coaster of denial, indecision, etc. The final, or third stage, is renewal -- the start-over stage.

    The second stage is how to get from stage one to stage three.

    My wife passed away in September and a friend suggested this book. It has provided comfort and guidance for my recent experience....more info


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