Dale R. Goodman, Ph.D., D.MiN. 

empowering life and relationships

Managing Transitions by William Bridges

We are living in a world of change.  Managing Transitions by William Bridges provides excellent insight on handling change. If you are going through a state of change, possibly these excerpts will help you. 



Going through a time of change.  One of my dear friends shared a book with me called, “Managing Transitions”. It was a huge blessing to me. 

In the book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges presents excellent insight into the change process.  He masterfully reveals three transition points in a process - ending, neutral zone and beginning.  Each process is unique and must be fully processed.

Source: Bridges, W. (1991; Revised 2003). Managing Transitions Makinging the Most of Change. Cambridge: Perseus Books.

The following are excerpts taken from this book.  Hope this helps you manage your transitions! 


Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

“Transitions start with an ending—paradoxical but true” (Bridges, 1991, p. 4).

“Every beginning is a consequence. Every beginning ends something.” Paul Valery

"Even in good changes, there are transitions that begin with having to let go of something.  There are endings.  There are losses.  The failure to identify and be ready for the endings and losses that change produces is the largest single problem that organizations/people in transition encounter" (Bridges, 1991, p. 5)

“It isn’t the changes themselves that people resist.  It is the losses and endings that they experience and the transition that they are resisting.”  (Bridges, 1991, p. 21)

“Whatever must end, must end. Don’t drag it out.” (Bridges, 1991, p. 32).

"It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear." Marilyn Ferguson

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."  Andre Gide

Transition Deficit

“Overreaction is a piece of one’s world that is getting lost.  It is also how past losses have been experienced.  When old losses haven’t been adequately dealt with, a sort of transition deficit is created—a readiness to grieve that only needs and ending in itself to set it off… this may also occur when an ending is viewed a symbolic of some larger loss” (Bridges, 1991, p. 22).   

Principle of Compensation

“The question to ask yourself is, ‘What can I give back to balance what’s been taken away?’ This principle of compensation for losses is basic to all kinds of change, and even the most important or beneficial changes often fail because this principle is overlooked. As journalist Walter Lippman said, ‘Unless the reformer can invent something which substitutes attractive virtues for attractive vices, he will fail’” (Bridges, 1991, p. 27)

Respecting the Past

“Yesterday’s ending launched today’s success, and today will have to end if tomorrow’s changes are to take place” (Bridges, 1991, p. 32).

Transition Management

“The single biggest reason organizational changes fail is that no one thought about the endings or planned to manage their impact on people.  Naturally concerned about the future, planners and implementers usually forget that people have to let go of the present first.  The forget that while the first task of change management is to understand the destination and how to get there, the first task of transition management is to convince people to leave home” (Bridges, 1991, p. 32).

The Neutral Zone

Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

"Welcome to the middle phase of the transition process.  I call it the neutral zone, because it is a nowhere between two somewheres…Anxiety rises and motivation falls.  People feel disorientated and self-doubting. They are resentful and self-protective…Old weaknesses, long patched over or compensated for reemerge in full flower… Given the ambiguities of the neutral zone, it is natural for people to become polarized between those who want to rush forward and those who want to go back to the old ways (Bridges, 1991, pp. 35-36).

"In transition there is an ending, then a neutral zone, and only then a new beginning.  But those phases are not separate stages with clear boundaries" (Bridges, 1991, p. 70).

"One of the most difficult aspects of the neutral zone for most people is that they do not understand it.  They expect to be able to move straight from the old to the new.  But this isn't a trip from one side of the street to the other.  It's a journey from one identity to the other and that takes time" (Bridges, 1991, p. 37).


"The neutral zone is a lonely place.  People feel isolated, especially if they don't understand what is happening to them.  Old problems are likely to resurface and old resentments come to life again.  For these reasons it is especially important to try to rebuild a sense of identification with a group and of connectedness with one another" (Bridges, 1991, p. 40).

"If you escape prematurely from the neutral zone, you'll not only compromise change but also lose a great opportunity.  Painful though it often is, the neutral zone is the individual's and organization's best chance for creativity, renewal and development."  (Bridges, 1991, p. 6)

The Beginnings 

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews11:6

"Beginnings are always mess." John Galsworthy

"Every beginning is a consequence.  Every beginning ends something."  Paul Valery


“Change is the game today, and organizations that can’t deal with it effectively aren’t likely to be around long” (Bridges, 1991, p. Ix)

“Change happens so frequently today that one change isn’t complete before another is launched.” (Bridges, 1991, p. X).


“Transitions start with an ending—paradoxical but true” (Bridges, 1991, p. 4).

“Unless transition occurs, change will not work… There can be any number of changes, but unless there are transitions, nothing will be different when the dust clears” (Bridges, 1991, p. 4)

“It isn’t changes that do us in, it’s the transitions.  Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational… Transition is the psychological process we go through to come to terms with a new situation. Change is external and transition is internal” (Bridges, 1991, p. 3).


“Transitions start with an ending.  You can’t grasp the new thing until you’ve let go of the old thing.  It’s the process of letting go that people resist, not change itself.  Their resistance can take the form of foot-dragging or sabotage, and you have to understand the pattern of loss to be ready to deal with the resistance and keep it from getting out of hand” (Bridges, 1991, p. 15).


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