Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by William Bridges

I read Transitions during a stage of life when things were shifting for me in the areas of work and romance. It helped me navigate those shifts and it equipped me with tools to handle even bigger transitions I anticipated for the future. In a nutshell, Transitions helped me freak out way less than I would have without it.

One of my favorite pieces of wisdom from Transitions:

Rule #2: Every transition begins with an ending (we have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new). This is difficult, even if we’ve been looking forward to the change, because we find our identity in the old way/role/situation, and now that identity is shifting.

The author makes a distinction between change and transition: change is the new situation, and transition is the psychological and emotional aspect of it—it is “the reorientation and self-redefinition that you go through in order to incorporate those changes into your life.” Change is what happens outside of yourself; transition is what happens within.

Bridges discusses the feelings and strategies for working through transitions, and he lays out a long list of some of the most-common changes that people deal with:

Losses of relationships

  • Deaths in the family
  • A friend moving away
  • Marital separations
  • Children leaving home
  • Alienation of a former friend
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of an admired hero

Changes in home life

  • Getting married
  • Having a child
  • Spouse retiring
  • Becoming ill (or recovering)
  • Returning to school
  • Changing jobs
  • Going into a depression
  • Moving to a new house, remodeling an old one
  • Increased or decreased domestic tension

Personal changes

  • Getting sick, or well again
  • Notable success, or failure
  • Changing your eating habits, sleep patterns, sexual activities
  • Starting or stopping school
  • Markedly changing your lifestyle or appearance

Work and financial changes

  • Getting fired, retiring, or changing jobs
  • Changes within your organization
  • Increase or decrease of income
  • Taking on new loans or mortgages
  • Discovering that career advancement is blocked

Inner changes

  • Spiritual awakening
  • Deepening social and political awareness or psychological insights
  • Changes in self-image or values
  • Discovery of a new dream or the abandonment of an old one

I’ve experienced so many of these changes in the last few years that reading Transitions was akin to wearing a life jacket—it kept me afloat when I would have otherwise felt like I was drowning. And now, as I revisit its pages, I am encouraged and confident that its wisdom will carry me through the next big transitions that come my way.

I pray the same for you, in whatever major life change you are going through or will be soon. If you’d like to, you can buy your copy here.