What are Life Changes and Transitions, beware of the differences?

The life course holds both concepts of continuity and change, and life-events hallmarks in the human life cycle.

In brief, a life event occurs, leading to changes in a person’s life, and then a transition takes place. Yet, not as simple as it might seem.

In a changing world, change is probably the steadiest variable about life.

Human Life Cycles includes Infancy, Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, and Old age. To travel, within and between each, stress-inducing events and transitions are unavoidable, challenging the individual’s functioning, health, and sense of self-worth.


Human development across the life-span involves conflict and competition between three goals: ​

  • growth,

  • maintenance, and

  • regulation of loss/gain dynamics and is co-constructed in an interplay between biological, socio-cultural, and individual factors.

People can, however, by selecting from the environment, what serves best their lives, create their unique development pathway.

Despite, 'change' is a permanent constant about life, not always development! Development implies the notion of improvement as a lifelong process across the life cycles towards an ideal and self-enrichment, accounting consequently for personal growth in which descriptions such as self-actualization (Maslow, 1943, 1970), the concept of the fully-functioning person (Rogers, 2004) or the mature personality from Allport (1961). Here, at believe-IN, we address the fully functioning person in their full potential walking towards a mature personality!


Life Changes and Transitions in adulthood!


Life Changes are any event capable of bringing significant disturbance to a person’s life, usually requires 3 to 6-months for adaptation. In adulthood, life-events, are regarded as specific types of stressors, investigated from both stress and developmental researchers, because whether positive or negative, are either way perceived by people as stressful experiences!

Four groups of Life-Events capable of bringing significant disturbance to a person's life:

  1. Family-related, including four types of events such as marriage, divorce, bereavement, childbirth.

  2. Work-related, comprising unemployment, reemployment, retirement, relocation/migration.

  3. Health-related events include any physical illness or sudden disability that have implied major life changes.

  4. Non-events are those life events that should have happened at a certain age or stage, but it didn’t (e.g. marriage, children, etc.)


A life change can throw an individual into transition. Transitions can be triggered either by unanticipated, anticipated life changes or non-events. In brief, a life event occurs, leading to changes in a person’s life, and then a transition takes place. Yet, more complex.



A Transition, however, is the result of significant changes, to the individual, in relationships, routines, assumptions, and roles imply personal discontinuity as a consequence of a stressful life change (life event or non-event). A transition could describe a process of letting go of the way life used to be and then start a journey to create a new identity and new life to take hold of the way they finally become.

Manage Life Transitions_believe-IN. Make it Happen!

According to Life-span developmental psychology, a transition entails identity change, the acquisition of new life assumptions and behaviours, that may have started with a life (change) event, but far more profound and transformative. A transition implies an inner psychological process people go through to internalize and come to terms, with the 'ending' of an old life and the new reality that change brings about. It follows its own pace and is a continual process over time, that can take months or even years to complete. As an example, a Transition framework, by William Bridges, identifies a three overlapping stages people in transition go through, 1) Ending, 2) Neutral Zone, and 3) New Beginning.


1.Endings” are the clearing process of “letting go” of the old, externally, and internally within the connections that define us as “who we are”, so we can embrace the new.


2. Neutral Zone”, is a place where the new self grows. The phase is of emptiness; individuals are in-between the old and the new life. The 'Neutral Zone' brings to some people unusual types of awareness that make them wonder if they are mad or becoming enlightened either way not available to discuss it with anyone.

  • The lack of guidance and validation, during this stage, is experienced by the individual as fearful and uneasy times. Nonetheless, dismissing the Neutral Zone is to miss the chance for an expanded sense of reality as to develop a more profound sense of purpose. It is a time to review and organize the past as it is to discover what one really wants.

  • The Neutral zone is a temporary time of chaos, aloneness, and renewal where inner reorientation and realignment from a phase of life to another occurs. It is where the true transition occurs.

3. “New beginnings”, the transition process will be concluded with a beginning. “New Beginnings” start genuinely from within, psychologically, the return to oneself involves the integration of old elements with the new identity for a new life.


Congratulations! By now, you read the description and differences between a Life Change and a Life Transition? What do you think? Nailed it? Seems complex?


Well, a transition is probably the most significant developmental challenge we go through as adult individuals. But working together, we break it down for you, step-by-step, simplifying it creatively along the way honouring your needs, wants, and opportunities.


The consequences; Human development or Human dysfunction?


Life Changes and Transitions, meaningful occurrences in a person's life, are the main contributor to human development, or when unsupported conducive to psychological decline.

  • Life Changes and Transitions are unavoidable, stress-inducing experiences, in adulthood, well-known to challenge the individual’s functioning, health, and sense of self-worth!


  • Since any brings a significant source of stress, anxiety, and feeling of fear due to high levels of uncertainty, unsupported can lead the individual psychological decline and dysfunction.


  • When the individual feels supported, throughout the experience, with cognitive and emotional restructuring and cognitive tools, then turned into a developmental opportunity.


'Psychological decline' means, human cognitive functions such as perception, attention, memory, language, learning, problem-solving, reasoning, and thinking are affected in different possible ways:


Psychological Decline


  • risk of significant cognitive impairments

  • declines in cognitive function

  • poor cognitive outcomes



IMPORTANT NOTE: We must remind ourselves that human functioning relies on effective decision-making and planning abilities. Those abilities are dependent on cognitive functions. Yet, cognitive functions depend on emotional information! When we make the two working together, we have developed Emotional Intelligence!



When we miss this crucial alignment due to emotional illiteracy or lack of cognitive tools (any of both), well-being and mental health are affected; it brings about increasing levels of:


  • Stress when we perceive unable to cope with external events or stressors

  • Anxiety is associated with declines in cognition. Poor cognitive performance predicts subsequent increases in anxiety.

  • Psychological distress is a general term used to describe unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact your level of functioning.


Therefore, to have adequate professional support provides the foundation to turn what could be a decline into a developmental opportunity. Transitions effects often exceed lifework boundaries into other roles as they can cause others to transition. Yet, the more striking problem, people undergoing transition processes face, are:

  • the increased risk of a severe crisis,

  • high risk of errors, such as accidents, indiscretions and poor decisions such as entering or staying in broken or abusive relationships, and decreased career prospects.


All in all, manifested, in one single sentence: 'compromised 'future life outcomes".


Take into account Socio-cultural and Individual Factors

However, despite its adverse outcomes, we have observed, modern societies have, nevertheless, not prepared individuals to embrace life changes or to recognize transitions; or have support systems in place. A Life Change can throw an individual into Transition in a blink of an eye. Transitions can be triggered by unanticipated, anticipated life changes or non-events. Consequently, the individual undergoing any of those processes lack skills to recognize and label the experience as the tools to overcome the challenges presented by a Life Change or a Transition. Yet, unconsciously seeking for knowledge and support struggle to find it, ultimately, because those around them are either prepared to embrace life changes and developmental transitions. Then the last barrier is that either life changes and transition challenge the status quo, cultural beliefs and societal norms. In this context, an individual already in a spiral of change often struggles to find understanding and support, among its immediate support network, turning the experience more chaotic and disruptive.


As we have said before, a transition is a developmental opportunity, and this is the way we, at believe-IN, see it and approach it! Therefore, educating to the development of life planning, emotional intelligence, and cognitive performance skills is the developmental recipe, to manage change and transitions in adulthood. With adequate professional services support, individuals who Prepare for Life Changes can anticipate transitions, and who is Managing Life Transitions also smooths the tumultuous experience of Endings and Neutral Zone; and minimizes the risk of a severe crisis. It is in the 'Neutral Zone' believe-IN assists effective decision-making, with a cognitive-process, and co-design the structure to what will become a New Identity and a New Beginning, giving you a sense of control over your life and mastery over your changes - restored equilibrium!

Hiring our Change and Transition Management Professional Services for guidance and support throughout your Life Changes and Transition process provides the foundation to turn what could be a decline into a developmental opportunity. For us, here at believe-IN, your present is as important as your past, as long we are looking towards designing your future, fully functioning in your full potential.

Successful change and transition management promote self-direction and self-dependence, enhancing self-esteem and self-worth.

believe-IN endeavour to put you in control of your life, fully functional, empowered, and abler to use strategies to get where you want to go. By the end of our intervention programme, you successfully adapt to new situations starting a New Beginning, with restored equilibrium, a lasting sense of balance and mastery over the whole experience.


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Contact us to arrange an initial 30-minute consultation appointment with you, where we will discuss, in detail, your individual requirements and the potential services we at believe-IN can provide hello@believein.uk

The Facilitator of Change to Individuals and Organizations in Transition.


Life Changes and Transition Management, in adulthood, for effective decision-making and exceptional life outcomes.

Professional services support to develop Life Planning, Emotional Intelligence and Cognitive Performance. Person-centered, science-based solutions powered by Psychology, Management, Coaching, Education.

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