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Belfast businessman William on how life coaching transformed his life

When William Ferguson's business ran into serious trouble last year, he felt his world spiralling out of control. The Belfast man tells Leona O'Neill how life coaching transformed his life - and how he's now helping other people through his new career path

Giving something back: businessman William Ferguson sought help in life coaching and now coaches others
Giving something back: businessman William Ferguson sought help in life coaching and now coaches others

Belfast businessman William Ferguson sought solace in life coaching after one of his businesses closed down last year, sending him into a spiral of anxiety, anger and frustration.

The 51-year-old south Belfast man found himself at a loss as to how to move forward when his pawnbroking shop in the city centre had to suddenly close.

He worried about paying his mortgage and taking care of his wife, Amanda, and their three children, Conor (15), Ruby (12) and eight-year-old Thomas.

"In May of last year, I suffered a very serious event in one of my two shops," he says. "I suffered a financial loss which resulted in the shop having to close.

"I immediately was incredibly worried, was terribly stressed out and later became very angry because I knew that my business was in serious difficulty.

"At my lowest ebb, I was worried about my mortgage, about putting food on the table for my children.

"I had to lay off staff, which was an emotional and horrible thing to have to do. It seeped through to my other business, my other shop in Ballymena.

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"I was really very low and I was genuinely really worried as to what was going to happen.

"I was concerned about whether I was going to be able to keep my other shop open while sustaining this loss.

"I had huge levels of anxiety. I was incredibly worried and that filtered in to me becoming very angry, which is a negative emotion because you are only burning up yourself and no one else.

"My anger was difficult to control - I felt powerless. My business life had taken a huge turn for the worse as a result of something totally out of my control. I felt very exposed."

Because of his spiralling worries, friends and colleagues suggested William see a life coach - something that completely changed his life.

"I reached out to the business community in Belfast," he says. "I spoke to friends, I spoke to colleagues and acquaintances. It was through those conversations that I was advised to take coaching for myself.

"I had never thought of it. The age I am, it just wasn't something that had come to my mind to do.

"But it was the most inspirational and best thing I have ever done for me because it took me away from a very negative place and I actually understood why I thought what I thought.

"I learned tools to use in my own life to (help me) rise up from adversity, not be beaten, understand it, deal with it, manage it and move forward.

"From the coaching that I took, I really felt a connection with it because it just opened my mind totally.

"I really wanted at that time - and now - to show other people, because we all have challenges, that there is a way forward in all of these feelings that you have. Whatever they are and wherever they show themselves, be that at home or at work, there are ways and tools that you can learn and practice... these obstacles don't have to be obstacles."

Because William has been down a dark road, he feels equipped to help others.

Changed man: William relaxing in his office
Changed man: William relaxing in his office

"For me, this new path manifested itself through business and through loss," he says.

"That is how I ended up getting coaching and then becoming a coach.

"For any of us, a manifestation of worries, concerns, challenges or obstacles can come from all walks of our personal lives.

"From that adversity, I reached out and I took coaching. It was the best thing I could have ever done for myself.

"It was just such a positive thing to do. That is why I started to coach other people."

William began to train as a life coach, getting his qualifications and setting up his own life coaching company, Inner Me Coaching.

"My job as a business life coach and mentor involves working with individuals or organisations on obstacles and challenges that we all have," he says.

"I work with people who want to learn tools to understand their challenges and gain the knowledge to overcome them - how to move themselves forward from somewhere they have felt stuck with or by.

"It could be procrastination or shyness. If it's in work, some people feel that they wish they could speak up more. It could be frustration or a whole array of emotions that we all feel."

He integrates life coaching with business coaching because he wants to coach "the human in business".

For William, it can be elements of our personal life that hold us back in all aspects of our life, including work.

He insists that if our human potential is being held back, that can hold us back in our professional careers.

"The way I view it is, whether you are at home or at work, you are the same individual," he explains.

"There may be something at work that is frustrating us, or there may be something at home frustrating us.

"I only came into coaching as a result of my own situation. Coaching is really from the present to the future. It does not particularly delve into the past.

"I have had a couple of clients who have contacted me who appeared to be suffering from deeper addictions or issues. That is not what I do - that is more therapy.

"Coaching is really from today and about moving forward. (It's about), 'How can I take you from today and help you overcome what you feel is your challenge for a better tomorrow and future?'"

For William, coaching is like rewiring your brain.

"Coaching is like doing a factory reset on your brain," he says. "We spend all day as human beings nattering away inside our own heads.

"We spend all day taking on board everything around us and discussing it internally.

"Maybe men are not as great as women about all of this and discussing it audibly, but we are always chatting away inside our brains.

"When this happened to me, my brain felt like it was going to explode.

"I couldn't put my thoughts in any sort of orderly form, so coaching was like taking a deep breath and taking yourself back to the basics of what you are.

"It was about understanding what my core values were because they are a very predominant part of all of this.

"It was about asking myself if I was aligned with my core values because if you're not, you are always going to be slightly out of sync."

William says that he believes his dark times had to happen to allow him to get where he is today - helping others navigate the challenging path he once found himself on.

"Out of every adversity, if you take it in the right way, you can decide what way things are going to go in your life and how you are going to react," he says.

"I was never going to give up. I was never going to be beaten by it, but I wasn't quite sure what way was out.

"Maybe life or maybe fate sent coaching across my path, I don't know.

"But what I do know is that by reaching out and always trying to find a way forward, by talking to people about a way forward, by understanding my way forward, I came across it and I registered it.

"Coaching is so logical. It makes so much sense and clears all the fog out of your mind.

"It makes things so much clearer and you are very honest with yourself.

"You can admit to yourself, 'This is who I am, this is my core value and I need to live in line with what my values are."

William says he can talk the talk because he has "walked the walk".

He says he understands business, how challenging it is and how rewarding it can be.

He insists that it is not always about how high you reach, but how high you bounce back up after a fall.

He has this advice for others: "I really would advise others to take coaching.

"I speak from experience. Otherwise, how will you ever really know why you feel what you feel? You have to drill down into yourself a bit.

"As a coach, I provoke. I ask the questions, but the client finds the answer. I guide them in this process. I take them to their moment of 'oh, I see it'. That is the key to coaching.

"I think that people who take coaching have to understand that if they don't put the effort in, they will get nothing from it.

"They have to be accountable for what they do. There is no magic button.

"It takes work, it takes time and it takes effort, but then everything in life worth having takes effort.

Nothing in life is free. If you put the effort in, you'll come out the other side a much more content, happy, more fulfilled person."

For more information, visit www.innermecoaching.com

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