Self-care, patience & resilience to make change fun and easy...with Geoff Seow & Samia Bano
SAMIA: Hello, Salam, Shalom, Namaste, Aloha, Sat Sri Akal, Holah and Bonjour! So welcome... welcome everyone again and welcome back Geoff :). I'm so excited you're back for the third time because we have such amazing conversation, I love to have you back. So welcome, welcome back.
GEOFF: Hey! Thanks for having me back. It's good to be back.
SAMIA: Yeah, I know right! Okay, so you know one of the really interesting things we started talking about last time and then we were sort of running out of time and so we didn't get to dig deeper into... is you mentioned, you know we were talking about how... you know you can create better balance in your life because you have so much to manage you know. You have your work, i.e. professional work. But then you also have to take care of things at home and family and all that kind of stuff, so how do you manage everything? And one of the most excellent tips that you were sharing was that you exercise every day for a couple of hours no matter what happens, and that is your something that really helps to ground you. And I shared like, oh I don’t exercise for a couple of days, a couple of hours a day. But I actually do meditate. I practice different forms of meditation a couple of hours a day and I do exercise a little bit, 30 minutes... but yeah, like for me you know meditation is a major practice that I utilize to help ground me, keep me centered. And I realized you know that really this need to engage in self-care is so critical. When we're talking about creating change and doing you know like... especially if you are a change maker and you have a big dream, big vision, that you're working towards creating change in your life and in then the world, you have to take care of yourself. So Geoff, will you share some more of your thoughts and wisdom around that?...
GEOFF: Yeah! I think... you know in such a busy world when there's so many things that everyone needs to do... there's work, there's, you know like, taking care of your life which is...you know, there's so many criteria you have to meet. But at some point you have to invest time to play the long-term game in that sense. So like if you, it's I guess, I liken it to lighting a candle you know... if you burn the candle too fast then there's no candle left. But if you burn the candle slowly then you're able to last for a longer period of time. So if you continuously floor yourself every single day and you don't leave any time for your criterion that keeps you going longer like for example your health or your mental state, which in this term I would be like you know your meditation, or my exercise, or like reading, developing, and you know just constantly you put yourself into doing things without actually getting something back in terms of your health or your wealth, or your wisdom for that sense, then you're kind of looking at a short term burnout. So the only way to go to the long term is to be able to I guess want to be patient, but also learn how to incorporate things where you gain time back. So when you talk about self-care you're basically talking about allowing yourself to feel like a human and feeling like you're validating what you're doing you know. And it's pretty much recharging your batteries and giving you more focus for what you plan to do in the future.SAMIA: Yes! Definitely the long term... long term approach I find is oftentimes the critical missing piece in how our lives... you know that like so much of what we do, we're just thinking about okay what do I need to do right now to just survive through whatever is happening? And in that process of just trying to survive in the now you know you end up taking a lot of actions that are actually going to be hurting you in the long term. But you're like, "I don't have time to deal with that, I don't have the capacity to deal with that"... because everything feels urgent, like an emergency has to be dealt with right now. This was also something we were touching on last time that we live in this culture that creates a sense of this kind of urgency for so much.
GEOFF: And like when we're talking about urgency it's so... it's so true. Because everything is like instant you know. Like it wasn't like this when I was growing up and I know it wasn't like this when you were growing up too. Because now we're constantly connected to our phones or our laptops, all of our work is technological based. That's for pretty much like every industry or every person in their personal life. And because of that you're kind of wired to want to receive things instantly... you're wired to have things now, you can't wait for like a longer period of time. You like need it now to feel like it was worth the effort you put in, right. So/and because of that kind of conditioning, of like how our society has become, it's very difficult to play the long-term game because everyone's so used to getting things now.
SAMIA: Yeah, yeah! I mean okay I just had a thought about the climate crisis. We're like in the climate crisis because we're so short-term in our thinking. But I won't go there because we'll really veer off topic... There's something else that you mentioned earlier that I would love to bring back the conversation. You said something about being patient, can you tell me more about that?
GEOFF: Yeah, patience is something that I struggled with a lot when I was younger, you know. Because the same way which I was telling you about how we're wired to our phones and we need things now, well also the fact that you know I am ADHD as well, like I was wired to get things now, straight away... But as I grew, I understood that you know you don't get things instantly. And if you do, they're probably less in quality than something that would take longer to obtain. So patience for me... yeah I know patience is a different definition for everyone, but patience for me is like consistently doing something even when you're not sure when the outcome is going to happen, but you're certain it's going to happen because you're consistent working towards it, and you're bidding your time until you know that your efforts are going to produce a result.
SAMIA: That's interesting, I... what you're describing, I usually associate with the idea of perseverance...
GEOFF: I guess so yeah.
SAMIA: Yeah, with patience, I actually have a very interesting relationship with the idea of patience. I've recently in the last year actually been getting more insight into like a new understanding actually of what patience can be like, and how we can practice patience and....actually one of the forms of meditation that I practice every day now, the teacher that I'm learning that from... he talks about like really aiming to live every moment of our lives in joy and gratitude you know. Like that's the goal that we want to strive for - live every moment in joy and gratitude. And it's like... well how do you do that? Especially if you're struggling with something and you know like from a spiritual perspective, patience is part of the answer. It's actually part of the starting point of how you deal with struggle... you respond to it with patience. And what I've been realizing over the last year is that there... patience is not an all-or-nothing game.
It's not like you're either patient or not patient. There is actually depth to how patient you can be. Like you can practice deeper and deeper levels of patience in a given situation. And so at a... at the more let's say bottom level, or rather surface level of how you might practice patience you know... I know like for me I associated that with this feeling of, I just have to grit my teeth and get through something, and that meant I was being patient... like you know there's something else that I wanted, that I wasn't getting. Or I was going through something that felt like a struggle, and I was like, "Okay I just have to sort of get through this", and that meant being patient. But that's not living in joy and gratitude. And if you have that kind of attitude, you can’t be in joy and gratitude. So it's like how can you practice patients at a deeper level? And so then you know I started thinking about, "Oh switch your perspective"... that's also something we've talked about in one of our previous conversations you know. You begin to switch your perspective on what the situation is. And if you begin to see it as a learning opportunity, as a growth opportunity, then you can practice patience at a deeper level. Then you can breathe, relax, don't panic, this is a learning opportunity, you know... growth opportunity...
GEOFF: But there's like... there's like different ways of being patient. They're in a sense of like you got to define what you're being patient for. Like I mean you know you could stand at a bus stop that isn't operational and you could stand at the bus stop for weeks and no bus is going to come you know. That's a form of patience because you're being patient. But you haven't done your research, you don't understand that the outcome might not happen that way. But then there's also patience where you have defined the outcome and then you just got to put in the steps. So as you talk perseverance, yeah like you persevere through patience. I guess when we combine those ideas is where you can go towards a long-term thing. Because patience is really good, but you have to be... but what are you being patient for I guess is what you really have to define. Otherwise you start to lose patience very easily.
SAMIA: Ture, true! Yeah I think you really said something very important, where it's like you have to... it's what are you being patient for and you know because... oh my gosh now I'm thinking about survivors of domestic violence.... So for four years I was working as a crisis counselor on a domestic violence hotline. And so you know I spoke to literally hundreds of survivors of domestic violence. And one of the very unfortunate things that happens when you're stuck in an abusive relationship is that people give you very, very bad advice on how to deal with being in that kind of abusive relationship. Most people don't recognize abuse for abuse. And a lot of the time the advice that you're getting is -- not everywhere, but like now I should be more specific. but in like certain parts of like the Indian community,
Pakistani community that's more conservative, traditional, there's this mindset of you know anytime there's trouble in the relationship between husband and wife we're told, "Oh you have to be patient, you have to be patient, you know just kind of be gentle, be compassionate, be empathetic, be patient in the situation and things will get better over time”. And before you know it, like 10 years have passed, 20 years have passed and people are still stuck in the abusive relationship. And things are not getting better...they’ve only been getting worse. And you're still being told to be patient. And that's just really sad, that's just really sad. That's a serious... there's something very wrong...wrong with that kind of patience and the practice of that kind of patience in that kind of a situation.
GEOFF: Well that's more of like a way to keep them quiet you know. It's more of a way of just saying look it will get bette,r we're going to get better. But like that's an outcome that you can see. But then that outcome is not within their control; they're kind of leaving it to other circumstances to come into play for that outcome to happen. So that's the thing where patience... like you've gotta like.... like say for example if you're just driving without having any destination. You can be patient, you drive all over the land, but you wouldn't get to where you wanted to be. But if you had a map you just had to sit in the car and be patient until you get there, right... So it's the same concept. It's like you have to have a destination and then you have to drive, or in this case you know put in work or put in something and be patient while you put in that something. Otherwise if you stop the car you're never going to get there, right. So that's just an analogy that I would use to explain my understanding of patience.
SAMIA: Yeah! Going back to the idea of self-care and you know needing to engage in self-care especially as someone you know who has a life vision that you have crafted for yourself and you're trying to work towards that... like the word that's coming to mind right now is resilience... like you need to be resilient. And of course being patient is a part of how you achieve resilience. Also self-care is an extremely important part of how you achieve resilience... What else do we need? Well, first of all maybe if you first tell me what you... how you define resilience, and then we can talk about how else can we achieve it.
GEOFF: Yeah, resilience is something that I think is really important for the human condition, for growth. Because it's good to you know, get coached, or it's good to you know like read a book or watch a couple movies for inspiration... but if you're not prepared to... prepared for good times and the bad times, then you're probably not going to be able to enjoy either one of them you know. And you're definitely not going to enjoy the good times if you can't recognize that bad times are necessary. And resilience in... I guess, in a lot of cultures, is quite weak. Because as we were talking before everyone is so conditioned to receive things instantly.
You order something online, you can get it within two days, right? So when everything is instant it's hard to be resilient for things that might push your character to the boundaries of what it can actually take. So over time you have to start building practices. And well, first of all, before that, what you said before is good, it's like having a vision for what you want with your life is important because then you have something to work towards. But at the same time also if you're not able to take the bad times and the good times and combine them into an experience then you're not going to be resilient to last until the long-term goal happens for you.
SAMIA: Yeah, how did you define resilience? Did you define resilience? You cut out...
GEOFF: Yeah, so to me I guess to summarize what I said, resilience would be being able to maintain your character and your fortitude through good times and bad times and recognizing that you can push through... you can push through and you refuse to give up- that is resilience. It's basically just like refusing to give up.
SAMIA: One of the definitions that I love for resilience is the ability to bounce back. So you know it's like human challenges... you might have a fall, but to be able to get back up, to be able to bounce back from whatever that hit or fall was… Because you know it's like no matter how... how amazing you are in terms of you know, for example... I'm a Happiness Expert. I have lots of skills in terms of how to create and maintain my happiness. And I do lots of things every day to create and maintain happiness and grow in my happiness. But no matter how awesome and amazing I am in that practice and that ability, I still get hit with things that are unexpected at times and I'm not immediately able to respond to them in the, in the best ways. I find myself feeling stuck or you know finding myself like having that fall without you know having that ability to immediately get up. It can take a while sometimes to recover, you know. But the... so it's one thing to have this/these like sort of happiness skills that you create and maintain in a general context, and then resilience is actually its own skill set. It's like when you fall, when you have that fall and you find yourself struggling to get back up... does that distinction make sense for you in your framework and way of doing things?
GEOFF: Well yeah. I think resilience is quite universal in that sense. It's... it's like you just said... it's if you like to summarize everything... you're not giving up, you're not giving up even when things push you down. Or whenever you feel elevated you know like every kind of extreme emotion has a middle line and you've got to learn to thread that middle line. And resilience is being able to I guess understand that not everything's going to go according to the plan. But that's where you're just going to stick to it. But obviously like there are times when you have to learn when the plan isn't going to work out, then you're going to jump ship. There are always times like that too. But if you can see that things just require a little bit of extra tweak or effort or this or that, then you can keep going and that's completely fine.
SAMIA: Yeah and sometimes what you need to be resilient is to jump ship. Because if you're on a sinking ship for example and you don't jump ship you'll just drown with the ship. So sometimes to be resilient you have to jump ship and to know the difference, to have the ability to know the difference between when you actually need to jump ship and it's the wiser, better choice, verses when you just need to stick it out longer on your current path, work harder or whatever. How do you... how do you suggest people make that distinction? Like how can you figure that out when you're struggling with something in a moment when you've been struggling for a while? How do you know if you need to jump ship or just keep working harder at it?
GEOFF: Well I've always been good at like kind of seeing these kind of things. But I normally look at reflection on my past because you know like most events happen in a kind of manner where you can kind of pick up different attributes. So like I'll give an example... So recently I was living in Melbourne and I was you know trying to life coach, and do like big seminars in Melbourne. And the day I arrived in Melbourne was the day in which it entered into lockdown. Like I literally got off the plane and I was on my phone at the airport and it said we're going to lock down in four hours. So I had to go to my apartment and basically like sort myself out in the next four hours before the lockdown happened. And it was a total lockdown as well you know. I wasn't like a half all stone lockdown. So that was cool. And then it got better. The city opened up and then we entered into another lockdown. But this one was really bad, so the lockdown is not going to end basically until probably December this year. So it came to a point I think it was two weeks ago where the cases were really goin up, talking about covid cases by the way, so the cases were really starting to pile up. And I saw that basically the city was going to be in lockdown for the foreseeable future until like December and I thought to myself all right, I can stay here or I can go to another city.
I can just leave, I can just go to another city because I was like I can remain in lockdown for the remaining four months or I can just leave. So to myself there's a fork in the road. There's like one pathway, it's like okay, "I am leaving Melbourne even though I really wanted to come and live in Melbourne", but on the other hand I'm like, "Okay if I stay in Melbourne then it's not going to work out the way I wanted to anyways". So that's when I knew, "Okay it's time to jump ship because I'm not going to be gaining any favors from this experience because it's actually setting me back”. So I decided, "Okay see you later Melbourne" and booked my flight back to a different city. And that's a perfect example of what we talked about just there. It's like if the cards aren't lining up and you know they're not lining up, it's time to leave.
SAMIA: Yeah! When I... when I'm struggling with decisions like that oftentimes you know I find it can be a little confusing to figure out which way is the right way to go when I'm trying to figure things out with my brain. Because I am like one of those people who can find pros and cons to everything. And so sometimes I can really overthink things. Actually I do that a lot. And so actually my favorite technique of making decisions now is just to relax, relax my mind and I drop straight into my heart. And I'm like, heart, you tell me, tell me what to do, what's the best thing for me to do. And I find that an amazing, amazing way to make decisions, especially the tough decisions. Because I've come to really trust my heart's guidance, my spiritual heart's guidance, and yeah that's my strategy.
GEOFF: For myself it's my gut instinct. I guess it's kind of the same thing we're talking about there. I'm not too sure about my spiritual heart. I don't really know too much, but I might talk to you about that at a different time. But I follow my gut instincts, so wherever that you know it kind of tells me I need to go... I mean like it's good to rationalize like you, always do pros and cons. And I definitely vouch about that because that's your mind kind of like sorting out all the ideas. But when it comes to like, okay like, "Do I really do it or don't do it?"... that's when you got to follow your gut, that's the key.
GEOFF: And actually I've looked into the... I've looked into some research on this, about the gut feeling and what that is. And it's a combination of your mind picking up... well this is on research, I don't know how effective it is... but like it's your mind picking up different variables in the world around you and when they don't align with how the situation is meant to be, so like say somebody was telling you a lie and you had heard before the same story, like they've told the story two weeks ago, and they tell you a story again but it's different, your gut feeling will tell you that you can't trust it because your mind picks up different inconsistencies. And that feeling... you're feeling in your gut where you're like, “this is a bad idea”, or “you shouldn't do that”, that's because your mind has picked up the inconsistency.
SAMIA: Right, and sometimes you're not actually consciously aware of those inconsistencies because they're processed subconsciously. And so/but the feeling that's produced, that's very visceral. And actually that's one of the functions of emotions, why we have emotions... is that our emotions are much, much harder to ignore. Like with our thoughts you know we can overlook things, we can ignore our thoughts, we can manipulate our thoughts... but when it comes to our feelings, they are definitely much, much harder to ignore. You can try to suppress a feeling for a while. But actually the more you try to suppress a feeling, in general it will come back, it will come back even stronger.
Because our emotions are not really meant to be suppressed... and our brain doesn't like it when we are suppressing our emotions, especially the negative emotions because they are part of our survival mechanism. You know it's like if you're feeling fear, if you're feeling stress, if you're feeling anger, anything like that, it's your brain trying to warn you that there's something wrong. And so the more you try to ignore the brain's warning the more desperate it gets to make sure that you listen to the warning and take appropriate action to protect yourself and the brain from the danger that it's perceiving. And so it really is not a good idea to ignore our feelings. I do find though that sometimes you know we can be very mistaken about what our feelings are actually telling us to do.
You know you can get a certain feeling and it makes you act in a certain way because you think in the moment that is what you should do. But you end up in even more trouble and then you know you realize, "Oh my gosh I misunderstood”. And you know maybe you don't even realize even later. But oftentimes you've misinterpreted your feelings. Like I mean, if I give a concrete example... anger is one of the emotions that can really get us in trouble in this way. Let's say you find yourself feeling really angry at someone and in that moment of feeling anger you might, you know, react with violence towards the other person. But that's not a good idea and it can get you into even more trouble. But in the moment you know you just react with violence because of that anger. But if you properly understand how to manage your anger and the function of anger and so forth, then you know you can actually realize that violence is not necessarily the solution... the anger wasn’t trying to move you towards it...it was just trying to warn you that, "Hey someone's crossed a boundary...violated some boundary of mine, and you need to take a stand to protect that boundary”, you know.
GEOFF: Yeah! I definitely agree with that one. Because acting out of, well I mean I know I was saying before you follow your gut feeling. But like that's different from like an emotion in the sense it's not a raw emotion... like a raw emotion as you're talking about, that in terms of anger, yeah if you act out of it then you know you're not really calculating the consequence, you're just doing what you feel like in that moment. And like that's fine if you're say a child because you know children haven't learned how to I guess behave with other people yet you know. They just do what they do, right. But as an adult there are conventions of behavior which are not just ingrained into people, it's ingrained into society. And when you act out of emotion a lot of the time it basically means that you put yourself on the back foot. But there are times when emotion is really useful like acting out of care, acting out of concern. But then emotions are a wide spectrum. There's many bad... there's... I wouldn't say bad emotions... but there's emotions that are unhelpful and there are emotions that are helpful. You can't say there are bad emotions because you own them, right? You can't delete them. But they are helpful ones and unhelpful ones. So I guess learning to focus on ones that are helpful to you and reinforcing them is going to be better in the long term.
SAMIA: Interesting! So the reason I brought up the example about feeling anger is because oftentimes like for me, the gut feeling is accompanied with/by risk... that feeling is accompanied with a strong emotion... Like okay, if I might give another example... so let's say like you know as a female person I have a hyper sort of sensitivity to safety concerns in terms of like especially if I'm out and alone and in the dark. I mean these are a lot of triggers like as a woman, as a female person, I have been conditioned since I was a tiny child, that I'm in danger of being hurt and being abused, especially in a context where I'm alone, when it's dark and so forth. And that's one thing. I mean there are all these emotions there. And I'm not saying those are gut feelings at all... there are times you know when you actually get...so I might be like in a dark place by myself and feeling completely calm and normal.
And then suddenly I had a feeling of being afraid or being worried and I'm not exactly sure why, you know. But if I listen to that feeling I'm like, "I'm getting out of here", and I do! I think that listening to that feeling in that moment is like really important because you know, even you know there have been so many instances, so many times when I haven't listened to that feeling when it popped up, and I got into serious trouble. And then later I realized, oh, actually my brain was picking up on... my subconscious brain was picking up on this, this and this signal because of which actually the fear and the stress and the worry popped up in my mind all of a sudden. And if I had ignored my feelings you know that's why I either got into trouble, or because I didn't ignore the feeling I was able to protect myself from something... You know, so like for me oftentimes that gut feeling... It is accompanied by strong emotions also.
GEOFF: Yeah, but I think in that case... well I know from what you said, that is very common. I have some female friends that have told me the same as well… I've read about it online also, and so it's a common thing right when you're walking down the street you might feel a sensation of needing to protect yourself, because as you're saying that it's not... that's not just how society has conditioned you, but that's just how it is. You know like that's just like a reality that in a lot of places in the world. It's not very safe for women to go, and that's a reality... but also coming back to the idea of emotion, like that emotion is necessary. But that is a survival mechanism. That fear, like there's different kinds of fear. And like being afraid of doing something you're scared of is very different from being afraid for your existence, like being afraid for your survival in that sense. Like if you feel a need to protect yourself or to like get the heck out, that is not just an emotion, that's like literally you saying, "Okay, to preserve my life I need to leave, and need to do it quick". So that's a different thing, and that's 100% listen to that, because like if you ignore that... well you know like I think there's a lot of stories on people who have ignored that.
SAMIA: Yeah, I think one of the... in that kind of scenario, like one thing that’s to be distinguished... there's a sense of general anxiety you know that sort of like always might be there for you. Because, it's not just like that for women by the way. Like I know for example a lot of African-Americans in the United States, because of all the racism you know they also have to live with, there’s this certain level of ongoing hostility and you know just stress that comes from living in a racist environment. I know people, you know like other categories of people who, like Muslims who who are living in Muslim minority countries and dealing with the constant stress of islamophobia and being targeted because of our faith you know... So there is a certain, more like generalized level of stress or anxiety that you're feeling all the time in certain contexts. But when we're talking about like distinguishing... distinguishing this kind of emotion from the gut feeling that's tied to your survival instinct, it's like... it's like I was saying it's like my... the distinction I will draw is that, number one the intensity of that gut feeling that's tied to your survival instinct is way, way, way, really way, stronger than the general level of anxiety and stress you might be feeling all the time.
And secondly you know, there's this idea of “in the presence of danger”, that it like you know, you don't feel that heightened sense of anxiety or worry all the time. It happens for some reason, there's some trigger and suddenly you're feeling that heightened sense. And so anything that triggers a heightened sense of anxiety, stress etc., you need to pay attention to that. There's something, even if you don't immediately understand why you're getting that significantly heightened sense of anxiety etc., there's some reason for that. So you need to do something different until you figure it out...and in the meantime, you know, maybe just remove yourself from that space, just to be on the safer side, until you can figure out what in the world triggered that strong emotion.
GEOFF: Yeah and... yeah it's hard to do in the moment, but if you take some time to reflect, you can normally kind of isolate what led to it. And then there's always deeper things and deeper triggers. That's the thing, the human mind is so complex, there's so many different things like a memory from like 20 years ago might impact my decision today. If you're not I guess cognizant of how that's happening, or you're not trying to be aware of your thoughts and where they're coming from...and that's where emotions come from, and that's where it's a... it's fascinating... We could do many, many discussions on how the human mind is so complex right. It's almost impossible to characterize, but like that's the beauty of what we do right. We look at how the human condition changes and how we can.
SAMIA: Yes, yes! Yeah, yeah. I just feel like, you know, figuring out our emotions and what they're actually trying to tell us can be a very, very tricky thing for our mind, it's just.... I just see that over and over again, like so many times. Like you get in trouble because you're not able to properly understand where your emotions are coming from and what to do with that emotion, how to manage it, how to respond to it in the best ways...
GEOFF: Yeah, and I mean, but there’s not really a best way to respond. I mean you can't really characterize the best way to respond to your emotion. But you can find the best way to act it out. Like if you're angry, well I mean there's ways to get rid of it, right. I mean you can take it out on other people, or you can go and exercise, or you can meditate... there's many different things, different ways to skin the cat. But then there's like if you're joyful, you don't just keep that to yourself. You normally share with other people. Why is that? But the thing is... is like there's no best way to respond to your emotions internally, but you can regulate it, you can go through it. But at some point or other you have to understand how your emotions are impacting the world around you and keep that in check.
SAMIA: Okay, okay. Any other... any other thoughts you want to share right now?
GEOFF: I think we've talked about a lot of interesting topics, Samia. We've talked about you know, emotion, we've talked about resilience, we've gone on a whole... whole journey here. But I think it's really interesting because I feel like we're covering a lot of bases on the human experience, so I'm enjoying it! I think we'll save more discussions for another time because there's a... there's a lot more there.
SAMIA: Sure, sure! Sounds good, I'll be happy to have you back :) Okay so then everyone, thank you once again for joining us. And until we see you next time, I will end as we began... Hello, Salam, Shalom, Namaste, Aloha, Sat Sri Akal, Holah and Bonjour!
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