Don’t Let a Detour Derail Your Dreams—How to Grow From Setbacks

Every news outlet is filled with articles and reports on how women will struggle to recover from the effects of the pandemic, and while there may have been major setbacks to female workplace advancements, these setbacks don’t mean the end of women’s career goals and dreams.

Deborah Bradshaw, author, TEDx Speaker, and Master Certified Life Coach, gives her advice to women in the workplace who feel like their dreams won’t ever get back on track, and reminds all of us that setbacks are still a part of God’s plan.

Don’t have time to read this blog? Listen to it below!

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself!

As a missionary kid, I spent my childhood in Malaysia and Singapore. Growing up in Southeast Asia and interacting with cultures from around the world gave me unique insight into body language, communication, and cultural diversity. Recently, my work has included creating courses on solving employment issues from a cultural perspective. 

Being a master certified life coach with over 20 years of experience, as well as a former acting teacher, director, and performance coach, has given me a passion for helping others feel more comfortable on stage. Some believe me to be an extrovert because I am a people person, but honestly I am an ambivert or as a friend calls it, a situational extrovert. While I enjoy sharing with others and speaking to groups large and small, I also understand what it can feel like to step on that stage feeling just a little uncomfortable. But I know that if I can do it, so can you. My hope is to encourage others that they can conquer their insecurities and accomplish their goals with practical baby-steps to their destination. 

Photographer: Luke Lau

We’ve all seen the news about the pandemic’s heavy effects on women in the workplace as they had even more weight added to their daily balancing act. What damage do you think has been done to a woman’s perception of personal growth?

Many women I have spoken with feel stuck. They feel like they have gone backwards in their life and career goals, and it is easy to believe that it will always be this way. It seems personal growth has taken a back burner to responsibilities at home, responsibilities with kids, with aging parents or with other commitments. The pandemic brought many more responsibilities to many of us, and it can be easy to become discouraged. 

We all have seasons in life and while it can be discouraging when our plans are not fulfilled within our time frame, that does not mean that the dream is over or the setback has to be permanent. Sometimes our journeys take detours, sometimes they change priorities, but I believe, from my own experiences and journey, that God will still make a way and that even detours can be part of His perfect plan for our lives.

Just as with most everything in life, the pandemic brought many challenges, but it also brought gifts. In my life, it brought the gift of slowing down—something difficult for me before the pandemic. It brought some much-needed rest when I was forced to stay home. It brought a shift in priorities from focusing on what I thought was beneficial for my career to examining what would really move the needle. There were disappointments, but there were also blessings. 

Why are you so passionate about helping people understand their own progress and growth? 

Truthfully, there have been many struggles in my life: a complicated divorce, financial issues resulting from marital debts, bad decisions, and the major health challenges of my son and my father over the last several years. I know what it is to struggle. But I also know what it is to find the blessings in those struggles. It is often not my circumstances that matter but my perspective of those circumstances that count. 

I can view my challenges as a long line of disappointments, or I can find the lessons and the strength in those challenges. My life is complicated, and I am sure yours is too. But I am here to tell you that if I can do it, so can you. It is a matter of taking the practical baby-steps to begin the journey. Sometimes it may be one baby-step a week, but it’s not how fast you move that matters, but that you keep moving forward. 

There have been times when I thought I honestly wouldn’t make it, but the more I struggled, the more I learned to seek God and His direction even in the desert. In retrospect, I can see how some of my biggest struggles have become my greatest blessings. 

When my house was almost foreclosed on, God used it to refinance the house in my name only, something that would have been impossible otherwise.

When I was told I had six months left to live and to get my affairs in order, I learned to change my lifestyle and my diet. I discovered I had celiac disease and that not only changed my life but gave me the courage to write a book called 7 Days To A Gluten Free Diet which has helped others in similar situations.

When I learned, during my pregnancy, that my son would be born with Down Syndrome, I was devastated. I thought my world had come to an end, but there have been so very many blessings as a result of my son having Down Syndrome. He has taught me what is truly possible if you believe. He has demonstrated faith that far surpasses my own, and he has far surpassed almost every single thing the experts told me was impossible. But God!

If you want to hear more about that journey, you can watch my Tedx Talk called The Eradication of Down Syndrome below. 

My passion in helping others create their own progress and find their purpose comes from what I have learned from my own life and especially from my sons – that we all have a unique purpose on this planet, that we each have incredible value, that we all have something unique to share and that we are indeed loved. 

What do you think will be vital to women’s personal perception of growth, post-pandemic?

I believe what will be most vital to women’s perspectives post-pandemic is to accept that this is not the end of their journey but merely a detour. Small, incremental and practical steps can make the biggest difference in moving ahead. Reevaluating priorities and figuring out what you most want is crucial to personal growth. Is this the direction you really want to go? If not, it may be time to pivot. 

The pandemic was a wakeup call for many, reminding us that life is indeed short. If anything, this past year should reassure you that you do have the strength and the courage to tackle whatever you are facing with God’s help. 

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Life does not always happen as you expect, and while this is not the life I always imagined, I have learned it is not my circumstances that matter as much as my perspective. 

Of course, I still have goals, and there are daily actions I take to move me towards those goals. But I also know that events will not always transpire as I plan. I am still growing, I am still striving, I am still asking God for progress towards my plans. But I have learned that His ways are not my ways and His plans truly are better. I have learned that many of the steps along my journey are ones I never would have chosen; however in hindsight, I would not trade them for anything. 

I would never hope or plan to have a son with Down Syndrome, and yet I would not change him for the world. I have learned to treasure exactly who God created him to be. 

I would never have expected to go through a challenging marriage and even more difficult divorce, but I can see how God is even now working that out for my good.

My career was supposed to have a different trajectory and yet if my journey can encourage someone else, can inspire someone else, can provide motivation for someone else, then the journey was worth it. 

There are seasons in life where it may seem like it’s always raining, but I have learned that rain produces two things: mud and rainbows. I choose to focus on the rainbows. 

Deborah Love Bradshaw is TEDx Speaker, Resilience Mindset Coach and Cultural Communication Consultant. Deborah is the founder of a social media company and the author of 5 books including her latest title, “When I Ordered You.” She has also been a sought after inspirational speaker, serving groups from Oklahoma to the United Kingdom.

As a Master Certified Life Coach, Deborah is passionate about helping others identify their vision, set their goals and take action towards their purpose. Her life goal is helping others find the value in themselves so they can unlock their full potential.

Deborah is the mother of two amazing sons, one of whom was born with Down Syndrome. When faced with the decision that would change her life forever, Deborah found the strength to move forward and to embark on this new journey. What followed were soul lessons regarding the value and purpose in each of us. The perspective gained from the journey provided profound inspiration and focus to help others see they truly are capable of more.