Change and Endings: Letting Go and Acceptance before New Beginnings

Successful transition through endings is a necessary skill in the 21st century.  A William Bridges classic gives insights into helping endings succeed.

<This post is part one of a two-part series on William Bridge’s Transitions change approach, with related change models and business examples.>

Sometimes an ending is a major, transformative revelation for a business, such as when CEO Darwin Smith exclaimed they needed to shut down the paper mills leading the shift to a new way of doing business.  


Mr. Smith is credited with turning what was perceived as a stodgy old paper company into an innovative consumer products powerhouse.  

As noted in a Harvard Business Review article, Kimberly-Clark is one of eleven companies on the Fortune 500 since 1965 that has been elevated from good to great and has maintained its transformed status.  Mr. Smith was recognized for making this accomplishment possible.    Source:  Paper Industry Hall of Fame

For the business and employment changes that continue, which can be wrenching for so many, a classic tool by author William  Bridges can help.


“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.

Change is situational, transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation.  

Change is external, transition is internal.”  William Bridges


The  Change Checklist, William Bridges Transitions Overview) features ENDINGS as the beginning of a successful move to accept and move through change as described in his book on Transitions.

Endings are about accepting where you are now.

This sets the context for a recent discussion I had with a friend on change and transition in relationships.  His relationship had ended, supposedly three times, but not really.   It appeared that one member of the couple was letting go and the other, could or would not.

As an organization consultant and team coach, this also became a metaphor for what I’ve seen in many organizations who are letting go of something that in reality, no longer exists. Team members struggle with what may be ill-fated hope. The Bridges checklist helps them get more clarity as they are encouraged to discuss more openly what is changing so that grieving and letting go can happen.

My learning from hearing about some of the pain in this relationship is two-fold, as an organizational example:

  • You can’t let go of anything unless you accept where you are now*  and
  • Go to where the pain is, because that is where the  learning also is.
Bridge’s Three (3) Stages of Transition, from his classic book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, by William Bridges, Da Capo Press (1991)  is captured in this classic change & transitions handout for leaders and managers via checklist here.  The intent of the handout is to aid conversations about what is ending, and what continues, in a “above the table,” more transparent way.


“To respect the dignity of a relationship also implies accepting the end when it comes.

Except in my mind, except in my dreams, where the aftertaste of her still lingers.” 

― André P. Brink, author, Before I Forget


Successful endings:

  • Leave room, create an open space for transitioning,
  • Allow you to enter the Neutral Zone (like the Black Forest) of transitions and change, according to William Bridges.

Parting questions:

  • Is there a successful ending that you can recall that helped you progress professionally and personally?
  • When you are fully present and accepting of who you are now, how does that affect your ability to accept an ending?

Let’s continue the change and transitions conversation by having a chat. Contact me at or call Deb.

Credit for this acceptance and endings observation goes to Pat Milland via Patricia Wall.

Learn more about change via Letting Go and, Letting Come?  Learn about Co-Creation via this robust body of work, Theory U:  Co-Creation in Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges


Published by dnrevel

Change & transition, organization development & team facilitation and retreats. Also REVELN Gardens for flowers and heirloom tomatoes. My LinkedIn profile:

3 thoughts on “Change and Endings: Letting Go and Acceptance before New Beginnings

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group. Chat soon!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: