Every life is filled with transitions, yet few books really tackle this confusing and often frightening time in a way that can help people make the passage from old into new. Whether it be a job, a marriage, a dream or physical challenge, a transition involves specific steps that take us from the ending of something or some way of being, through a period of limbo, to a new beginning.
These three stages of transition - the Ending, the Neutral Zone and the New Beginning - make up the foundation of author Bill Bridges’ “program", so to speak, for making successful transitions from one stage of life to another. Using examples from a transition group he worked with, we get a personal glimpse into just how each type of transition, and the various stages a person goes through, show up in life; how to move from an ending and into that sort of empty void that usually occurs before a new beginning makes itself known. These personal stories provide a real human touch to a subject few humans like to even face up to, especially when transitions lead to painful or uncomfortable changes within and without.
One of the book’s greatest lessons is the necessity of letting go and saying goodbye to some part of ourselves or our lives in order for anything new to happen to us, or for real change to occur. Often, we hold onto the past for dear life, refusing to let go of an old self image, a career or dream we no longer love, or a person we no longer with to be with, just because of our dread fear of the unknown future. Only by learning how to end things can we really learn how to begin things.
I especially learned a lot from the chapter about the Neutral Zone, this gray area between the old and the new, where many of us find ourselves struggling to let go of the past and realign ourselves with a new image, and often new goals and dreams. As a former career woman-turned-mother trying to keep both the old image and the new image intact, I can assure you I found great comfort and courage from knowing that this seemingly unproductive and eerily uneventful (although this is not entirely true, for many changes are occurring beyond our field of vision that will make themselves known to us once we move into our New Beginning) Neutral Zone is a normal part of human life. Disorienting and painful? Yes. Confusing and frustrating? Yes. Necessary for our personal growth? Undoubtedly.
Although this book was originally written over twenty-five years ago, it still offers a great deal of usable and empowering information for anyone involved in a transition, and also includes a new chapter devoted to transitions in the workplace, and an updated preface. Most, if not all, of the information is still highly relevant today as it was then.
Bill Bridges, author of other books about transitions and life changes including The Way of Transition and Job Shift, presents us with a powerful plan for understanding the many stages of life a human being is destined to go through, how these changes lead us into new experiences, and how to cope with the endings that are inevitable before we can have these new experiences. With tools and techniques like those outlined in this book, transitions don’t have to be so scary and tentative. In fact, they can be something to be looked forward to with excitement and anticipation.
After all, the only constant thing in life (other than death and taxes) is that it will change. It sure helps to be ready for it!