Mastering the art of transition - could a simple framework hold the key to navigating mid to later life?

Mastering the art of translation – could a simple framework hold the key to navigating mid to later life?

“Sociologist William Bridges made the distinction between change and transition. Change, he explained, is what happens to us, all around, every day, in ways large and small. It can sweep you off your feet, propel you to the top of your field or mow you down unnoticed in the mass collateral damage of crowds. Transition is the internal adjustments needed to help you cope with change, adapt to its lessons and survive and thrive in the next normal. Everyone experiences change, not everyone transitions through it.” Avivah Wittenburg-Cox*

The number of transitions we are expected to navigate in our lifetimes are proliferating given that we are living longer and into the reality of this age of digital technology. From the number of jobs we will have, to the number of places we might live, to the relationships we may have compared to even a couple of decades ago, proliferation and speed is the name of the game and living with increasing numbers of transitions is becoming our norm.

Following on from my July Wise Sherpa blog discussing my experiences earlier this year of studying with the Modern Elders Academy (“MEA”) based out of Baja; one speaker and author, Bruce Feiler, more than any other had a profound effect on my thinking and work subsequently.

Bruce Feiler and his work on transitions is summarised in his book: Life is in the Transitions. His work truly opened my eyes to the impact transitions increasingly have on our lives and the opportunity offered by understanding and mastering the art of the transition to help us thrive.

As we find more and more is asked and expected of us (both by others and by ourselves) in “successfully” managing these transitions, most of us have trouble understanding and meeting these expectations no matter how innovative or resilient we believe we are. Could it be that by having a simple framework or frame of reference to help us understand and navigate transitions, we could start to master the art? Is it really that simple?

Yes and no. Approaching navigating transitions as a skill to be learnt and developed is invaluable. Using the framework to “anchor” ourselves as a guide to managing the turbulence that transitions can throw up is invaluable. But so is awareness and choice as to whether we want to engage with the transition. I’ve found it useful to use the concept from Adaptive Leadership** – to go from the dance floor up to the balcony – creating distance and space to observe, acknowledge and process what is going on and to choose whether or not to engage with the transition and then move through and beyond.

My own story is front and centre as I type this blog. As I worked my way through Bruce’s book, I realised I have been going through a series of transitions over the past five years that have added up to one massive “lifequake”***. Had I had an understanding summarised in a framework, could I have gained more perspective and navigated the turbulence potentially more smoothly? I believe so.

It probably is not surprising that many of my clients in mid-life are navigating multiple, new to them transitions – for many this is adding up to a lifequake of their own. I find myself frequently referencing and sharing Bruce’s work along with a framework below that the MEA have produced: The Anatomy of a Transition which I believe anchored in my experience and practice powerfully summarises transitions and opens up much needed dialogue, understanding and ultimately insights leading to action.

navigating mid to later life 2

Volume 1, April 2021 © 2021 MODERN ELDER ACADEMY


If you’re interested in learning a bit more about navigating mid to later life transitions as part of a coaching conversation, I would love to talk further. You can contact me at or


** The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Ron Heifetz & Marty Linsky

***typically, this is when a series of transition coincide and create a cluster effect that can last 3-5 years

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