Emily Hurley-Wilkisnon

Emily Hurley-Wilkisnon is an accredited personal and business coach, Yoga breath coach and author. 

She says that, “I have given stress related group talks to multinational organizations and health care providers throughout Ireland as part of their employee wellness initiatives. My mantra is ‘you haven’t come this far to only come this far.’ I empower people who feel stuck, stressed out and unsatisfied with their lives to take a chance to live their lives as they would like to live it. In 2017, I published my book Reclaim Your Mojo (available on Amazon) to share with people several tools and life skills. that guides you through how to turn on the brain’s calm switch, five essential characteristics for developing emotional resilience, along with practical exercises to help you on the road to a more confident, successful and happier you.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

I’m one of seven children born and raised in Cork City, Ireland. I had a happy upbringing, apart from the usual sibling rivalry. From an early age I learned how to dance competitively which is one of the reasons I believe I’m fiercely competitive, that and the fact I was a middle child! Academically I was an average student despite never missing a day from school. I was presented with a certificate by the then Lord Mayor of my city to acknowledge this achievement. My learning curve began in the seventies and eighties (I’m 55 years young). I didn’t go to university, instead I began working as a PA for a model agency where I also trained to teach young women the basic skills of Deportment and Grooming. Essentially, how to convey confidence through posture, whilst enhancing their looks through the application of make-up. I suppose on looking back, that job was my first experience in inspiring others to be the best versions of themselves. It was rewarding to see these young women transform into more confident self assured ladies over a period of weeks. My role models were my parents. I admired their positivity and zest for life, their tenacity and determination to provide for their children despite many life challenges and hardships. I’m an advocate of goal setting, its truly the only effective way that will push you to learn and grow. My current goal is to complete my debut fictional novel – a challenge I set for myself a little over two years ago. I love reading and researching science wellness.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

Yes, I have had pivot points on my journey which ultimately brought me the success that I enjoy today. When I was twenty one I made the life altering decision to pack up my life to follow my heart having met an English man who had been working in my hometown of Cork at the time. The challenge of moving from Cork – a small city, to London in the late eighties (when mobile phones didn’t exist) was enormous and overwhelming. I rose to the challenge and found myself on a fast track to management in media sales working for several blue chip multinational organizations in the years that followed. I packed my life up again, on three more occasions to follow the same boyfriend for his work overseas. It was during my time living in Australia that I found out that he had been living a lie for years, cheating on me on several occasions. That led me to a crossroad. Do I return to the comfort of my family back in Ireland or do I go it alone in London? I chose the latter and flew to London without a penny to my name, initially camping on the floor of a couple’s house whom I had known and worked with previously. My career began to take off again, but I began to suffer with severe anxiety, which triggered a condition called IBS, panic attacks and blackouts. It was debilitating. But it was a pivotal time in my life. I knew I had to take back control. I did an emotional overhaul and immediately recognized that I had become harshly self critical and I had lost my sense of self. I turned my anxiety into action. I acknowledged that I was resilient, gutsy and highly skilled. That prompted me to quit my well paid job and become self-employed as a sales trainer. In 2001 I returned to Ireland with my now husband pregnant with my first born.

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”

The burning desire too help empower people had always been there, right from the off when I worked at my first job. It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Being a mum of two boys also drove my ambition. Going out on my own, gave me the freedom to prioritize my time with my family.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

Of course. Self-doubt is a massive obstacle that can derail you at any time. It has the capacity to cause you to deceive yourself into thinking a whole bunch of excuses to hold you back. When I first set up my coaching practice I suffered with imposter syndrome. Most of my clients were graduates from university. Many held senior positions or were business owners. I had moments where I felt inadequate because academically I felt inferior. I acknowledge the feelings for what they were – Fear. And the only way to dissolve fear is to go through it. And that essentially is typically my coping mechanism. I also challenge my thoughts whenever I believe I am sabotaging myself.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

During the pandemic I set myself a goal to write my debut novel. And working from home afforded me that opportunity. Personally, I lost my mother during the pandemic – she had dementia, and was in a care home. The inability to see her and be with her fast tracked her disease. It was an extremely emotionally turbulent time.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

Giving birth to my boys was a great accomplishment. Especially as I was told in my early twenties that I would never be able to conceive naturally as I had a medical condition (PCOS). Poly cystic ovarian syndrome. I researched all there was to know about this and stumbled on an article. Another woman sharing her story with the same condition who went on to have children naturally. I figured if she can do it so can I. With a few lifestyle changes I reversed many of the side effects. I’ve also won several accolades for dancing.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I would like to see a world where people feel safe and are treated equally regardless of their age, gender or ethnicity. I would also like to see real actionable plans regarding a more sustainable environment.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

To coin the phrase ‘Everything is hard before it’s easy”, is so true. The start is always the toughest part and that holds true for any experience in your life. When you lose a loved one, fail, suffer rejection, start a new job/venture etc. When you step out of your comfort zone and onto the edge of the unknown it can be a fearful and unsettling time. You’ve just got to trust in you and know that you are stronger than you think, braver than you know and smarter than you think.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

More women leaders are an absolute must in the world today. Given that women represent almost half of the world’s population it is nonsensical that only 10.6% of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are women. And whilst progress has been made there still remains a significant gender gap. Women are every bit as capable as their male counterparts ,if anything I believe women have an edge in terms of being more compassionate, organized and more empathetic. Women have had to smash through workplace barriers and gender bias for years; isn’t that proof enough of how touch and resilient woman leaders are? It really is a matter of time before the glass ceiling is smashed into smithereens.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

You will only ever achieve as high as your self-belief. The ultimate cure to healthy self-esteem is consistent positive action. Know when you start to make progress you will feel a sense of achievement that will help you feel more validated and your confidence will soar. When setting yourself a goal. It is important that you get clear about what it is that you want, and not what you think others want of you. What you are capable of achieving , must not be as a result of what others think is possible or not possible of you. Think about what is true for you and why it is important to you, and what not achieving your goal will mean for you. I’ll finish with an exercise which will help you to create a vision for your life. When you hold a clear and vivid picture of how you want your life to be, you are simply declaring what it is that you want to experience, what it is you want to accomplish and the person you want to become. I believe that when you keep such a vision burning bright within your mind’s eye, it will act as an invisible hand, that will guide you through times of self-doubt and fear as it did for me on many occasions. Repeated often enough, this process becomes easier and your vision for your future will become clearer, brighter and stronger. There are times when people find this exercise difficult initially, as they have become disillusioned by disappointment and failures. If that is the case for you, then let me say this – when a dream that was can no longer be (for whatever reason), then it’s time to dream another dream. Never allow your current circumstances dictate your future because you are worth more. The visualization exercise is called the Magic Mirror. All you need is your imagination and a pen to make some notes. Close your eyes. I want you to imagine you are standing in front of a full length mirror. Now imagine walking through the magic mirror, and when you reach the other side you discover that the mirror has brought you exactly five years into your future. Make this image as vivid as possible for a few moments. Now pick up a pen and use the checklist below to make notes. Is the picture of your future five years from now positive? Have you grown and evolved? What’s different? How are you different? Who and what do you see around you? Notice how your attitude and behaviour has changed. Notice any changes to the way you talk to yourself/hold yourself. What do you hear other people saying about you? How do you feel? Have you ever felt that feeling before? In what ways are you now enjoying life and new experiences? How does that picture compare to your current life? Conversely, did your picture capture an older version of you repeatedly doing all that you’ve done before?