Transitions are a natural part of life. They are transformative moments that make us reevaluate the path we’re walking and move in a new direction for better or worse. Transitions connect people from across the world, young, old, poor, rich, and 2020 has been a year where many of us have had to adapt to changing circumstances.
Bruce Feiler’s Life Is In The Transitions: Mastering Change At Any Age is a timely book that delves into the process of reframing your life story and coming out stronger. From sharing the personal tales of 225 people from across America, to explaining transition superpowers and kryptonite, this book reveals some great insight into personal development.
“The Italians have a wonderful expression for how our lives get upended when we least expect it; lupus in fabula. Fabula means fairy tale. The fabula is the fantasy of our lives, the ideal version, our lives when everything is going right.
Lupus means wolf. The lupus is the trouble, the conflict, the big, scary thing that threatens to destroy everything around it. Our actual lives, in other words.
Lupus in fabula means the wolf in the fairy tale. Italians use it as the equivalent of speak of the devil. Just when life is going swimmingly, along comes a demon, an ogre, a dragon, a diagnosis, a downsizing, a death.”
Setting up the Life Story Project
Life Is In The Transitions was written to showcase the Life Story Project, a concept that Feiler came up with to share the stories of 225 different people from all over the States. Each person’s story is unique to them and their transitions took them in multiple directions.
Feiler interviewed each one of them to analyse the most important turning points of their lives. Some of the stories include a CIA analyst who quit to train rescue dogs, a former white supremacist, five people who survived sucide attempts, a physicist who quit his job to dedicate his time to his YouTube band Ninja Sex Party, a highly decorated Paralympian and many more.
The common thread that binds all these stories is that everyone experienced disruptions and what Felier refers to as ‘lifequakes,’ which forced them to change their narratives and transform into new people.
The ABCs of Meaning and transition superpowers
Through analysing the interviews, Feiler constructs ideas like the ABCs of Meaning, which stand for agency, belonging and cause. We all want agency in our lives, we all want to feel like we belong to something and we’re all familiar with thoughts of standing for something greater than ourselves. According to Feiler, transitions fall into these three categories and no one will experience them in the same order or in the same way.
Then there’s the idea of the Three Stages of Transition: the long goodbye, the messy middle and the new beginning. Each phase stands as a transition superpower or kryptonite, as we may be better at one stage and terrible at another. Interestingly, Feiler’s research found that 47% of people find the messy middle step the hardest, yet this data is always shifting and acts as a reminder that transitions are an ongoing process.
Another interesting concept to be found in the book is the notion that a life can take on a certain shape like a circle or a funnel. When thinking about the shape of my own life, I see it as a notepad with blank pages that are still being written.
“We must write the legends of the non-linear age. And sing them as loud as we can. And they should tell us that the best way to respond to a period of personal upheaval – the close of one story, the end of one dream – is to push through the darkness, paddle through the torrents, persevere through the woods.
And to know we’re not alone. The woods are full of people just like us. All those disturbances we run into along the way – the bend in the river, the howl in the night, the wolf in the path, are what everyone encounters in between dreams.”
Celebrating the non-linear life
It would be wrong to think of Life In The Transitions as a typical self-help book. Feiler doesn’t ask the reader to go through specific steps to find some kind of deeper meaning. Rather he celebrates the idea of the non-linear life and that the stories of the people in the book reveal that transitions can happen at any age and at any time.
What’s important is that change is necessary, that finding a path which works for you is the way to complete a transformation and that it’s better to try and fail than to never fail at all.