Have you ever heard of the power of mind shifting before? In this episode, MindShift Coach and international poker player Donna Blevins, Ph.D. talks about the power of shifting your mind and explains how you can use it in your daily life. As a stroke survivor, Donna notes how shifting her mindset has become a blessing to her with regards to her mind, body, and spirit connection. Through her book, MindShift on Demand, she discusses more about the concept and how you can efficiently use it.
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MindShift On Demand: How Shifting Your Mind Can Improve The Mind, Body And Spirit Connection with Donna Blevins
We are going to have an amazing show because I have Donna Blevins with us. We just met for the first time. She will blow you away, not because she’s 6’ 5.” That’s incredible in itself, but she’s a big person as well, big heart, big mind and all of the big represent. I’m excited to have Donna on the show because we’re going to have a lot of fun and you as guests are going to learn a lot. You might want to take out a pen and paper. You might want to read this a second or third time because there’s going to be a lot embedded in here.
Donna Blevins is a PhD and is a MindShift coach. She’s a motivational speaker and international professional poker player who’s used her MindShift Exercises to accelerate her miraculous recovery from a life-threatening stroke. Her innovative game-based brain training techniques help wounded warriors who were suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which earned her recognition award from the Department of Veteran Affairs. Donna is transparent and openly shares how you can shift your mindset in an instance. Donna, welcome.
I’m so happy to be here, Penny. We’re going to have some fun together.
There’s so much to talk about. What’s important for the guests? First of all, let’s go back a little bit and understand because I think one of the intriguing things is the Poker aspect. How did you get into Poker? Is that where your mindshift interest began or did it begin before that?
I’ve doing mindshifting all my life without knowing that’s what I was doing. I didn’t have the words for it until it past probably a dozen years when the words came out as far as being a mind shift. I had been thinking differently on purpose and that has a lot to do with mindshifting.
You had a story that was in your book about your mother and how you remember back to when she was reading your stories and how that may have had a big impact. Could you share that story?
It’s about the child’s book, The Little Engine That Could. It’s about this little cartoon engine that’s trying to get over this mountain. It goes, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” all the way through. My mother after she said, “I think I can, I think I can,” she changed it automatically and started saying, “I know I can. I know I can.” She imprinted that on my subconscious.
I don’t know if the audience gets the subtle but powerful difference in those words and what it could have impacted. When you say you’ve been doing this all your life, I would imagine that’s because that’s what you learned in that way.
My mother is my touchstone. Fortunately, she is still with us. She’s 93. Even though she has moderate dementia, we’ve been doing some alternative therapies and she’s come back out. It’s astonishing. We’ve been having conversations and she’s ignoring me less. Some people think it might be her hearing, but I think she’s just ignoring me. She would tell me as I’m growing, I grew nine inches in one year in the fifth grade and it’s very painful, not emotionally from my standpoint, but it was physically painful because your bones grow that fast. Your muscles and ligaments grow slower and they’re trying to rip away. She would say, “Stand up, stick them out and be proud.” Even before I had anything to stick out. She would tell me, “You can do this, you can do this.” She imprinted that on my subconscious.
We have access to the most powerful biological supercomputer in the world which is our brain. Click To Tweet Kudos to your mom. When I read that story, I was like, “I wish I could go back in time for my kids.” They are older, they’re not reading those books anymore. I have to think about be purposeful about how things are being presented because they make a huge difference. Just because that’s the way they are on paper, as your mom thought, it doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the way she has to deliver it. That’s incredible. Whether it was Poker or not Poker, when was the first time you realize that you’re doing this on purpose and that you have the desire to help other people to do this too?
I believe that the first time I consciously understood mindshifting was twenty years after I graduated from high school. I’m getting ready to go on television with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He’s 7’2”. They had me come on because the host, it was the Hour Magazine, Gary Collins was 6’1”. He wasn’t quite that tall. Men stretch their height a little bit. They wanted someone that was between them for both of them to be comfortable. I’m 6’5” in those days. I was wearing probably four-inch heels and I would wear the six-inch platforms and I couldn’t find that fit me in. You may go, “What?” I’m going, “Should I hide?” No.
He asked me if I played basketball. It was the first time I was delighted someone had because I didn’t play basketball of my own volition. When I got to high school, I was so uncoordinated because I’d grown so fast. He asked me how many points I had scored over the years I was in high school. When I told him, he started laughing. I thought, “He’s laughing at me.” He said, “Magic Johnson has an average score of 23 points this year. He’s fabulous.” I said, “Do you mean that my 36 points average over those years meant I was a good basketball player?” He said, “No, it meant you were a star.” At that moment, I had a mega mindshift because I realized it was the words I had been saying to myself. For all of those years, I had been saying, “Why am I such a poor basketball player?” It changed the way I was thinking. That one shift was probably the one shift when I got to the point of looking at the words.
What proceeded from there?
I went to that first-week seminar of Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the ‘80s. That was when I first began to see the words, understand how words are anchored, what that meant and how we need to listen to the words that come out of our mouth.
That’s important. We found that we have this totally in common. I also didn’t realize that I was so hooked on words and then I also took NLP and realized and it even made it more profound. You can not see those words or hear them even when they come out of your own mouth. You’re like, “I’ve got to do something here.”
One of the chapters in the book is called Tag. That’s about listening to yourself or someone that you love that you’re working with. I do it with my coaching clients. I ask permission to tag them. When I hear something comes out of their mouth, rather than let it go, I’d say, “Tag,” gently and lovingly. They’ll say, “What did I say?” I said, “Consider these words. How might you reframe them?” They’d go about saying, “It took me a long time.” It did take me a long time to figure out how to craft the words. Delightfully, when I met my husband in 1986, I told him about this. I went, “Can we give it a try?” He said, “Sure.” We started using it in our personal life and our business life. We are still using it because sometimes words come out without our intention of them coming out a particular way. We love letting go. “Tag.” It’s a great way to shift the words.
I love how strategies are cross–contextual. You can use it in your relationships, you can use it at work, you can use it as a coach. I finished reading that chapter. I loved the playfulness of it. That it’s tag, it’s a game, it’s light. As opposed to calling someone out on their words, it’s lovingly saying, “Tag.” There’s something that we need to reframe and for ourselves to be more gentle and forgiving on ourselves. Tag is beautiful. You talk a lot about forgiveness in your process. I found that in itself leads itself to be open to forgiveness and to reframe it. Let’s relate this back to Take Back Time. They’re thinking, “How can I use this to be smarter in the way that I do things?” Sometimes, unless we spell it out for people, they don’t necessarily make the connection. I love that we can make the connection for people of how a simple little tool like tagging unproductive words. If we bring it into productivity and say we have productive words and unproductive words. It’s not making anything good or bad. It’s just that some things are more productive. How do you see this being a productivity tool?
It’s fabulous because by getting to that point of self-forgiveness without his saying, “I need to go forgive myself.” You do it. It’s part of the process. When you step through a process, our MindShift Exercise, you retrain your brain how to step through it. It might be five or six steps to do it. You do that enough times so that it becomes a habit. When something comes up again, you need to tag yourself. You don’t have to sit down and go, “I’ve got to go through those steps.” You can go, “Tag,” and your brain goes through it. You rewire the neuropathways in your brain. Our brain plasticity is phenomenal. I had no idea that we had the ability to do that. By taking a few moments each day, and I suggest a ten-minute a day process where you practice a MindShift Exercise.
My coaching clients have called my MindShift Exercise like yoga and meditation on steroids because in this life, we can’t say, “Let’s look at the Poker table.” In fact, I was literally at the Poker table when I realized that life was different. It was when I first started playing in 1996. I’m in my late 40s at the time. I’m in hand and at the time we had a real estate company. I’m sitting there, in hand, I have cards in front of me and it’s my turn to act. I’m fretting about what had happened that day at a contractor I’m dealing with because I manage a bunch of contractors. I’m thinking about what I have to do the next day. The universe did a forehead smack and it was like, “There’s only one thing that exists ever. It’s the cards you have. There’s nothing else that exists. Everything else is either gone or not yet here.” A calm came over me that was life-changing. At that moment, I went into a place that they call the zone. When you’re in a competition, when everything else seems to diffuse, it fades away. I came to a place of peace that was profound at that moment at the poker table and I didn’t even know what it was. I was able to realize that there’s only one thing that exists, it’s now. It brought me to the mindfulness. That’s the whole key to mind-shifting.
I love that metaphor. It’s the cards in your hand right now and what you do with them. That’s powerful in that context. I think that we all do get these messages in our own language, whatever it is that we do. Somebody who’s in real estate, maybe it’s something in their context. The question is are we listening?
We get so preoccupied with what’s going on. The notes for now, you had said come up with three tips. There are three things that can trump everything else. That takes three simple, long, deep breaths. It is astonishing because in the middle of the chaos, if you stop a moment, I don’t care what’s going on. You can’t close your eyes when you’re driving. Even when you’re driving, you can do it. You take a deep breath and you hold that breath and just be in the moment when you’re holding the breath. When you release, let your shoulders drop. You’re going, “There was tension there.” Take another breath and enter the nose and hold. Be there at the moment and it feels so good. Exhale through softly and drop your shoulders. I do it all the time. Talking about three simple tips, that’s life-saving for me because I can do that. If my heart has started going a little faster, I can drop my heartbeat, fifteen beats a minute in those three breaths.
That’s what athletes do. They’re taught this breathing style. I’ve read it in several different books. When they’re stressed, what happens to our heart rate? It goes up and at a certain point, it gets to 150 beats per minute. We get to the point where are we going to fight or flight. We’re not able to be present at the moment. We’re more in survival mode. By breathing, it helps to bring it down and we are whatever you want to call it, corporate athletes, parent athletes, we’re life athletes because we’re constantly on the go. This is so important for everyone.
If we acknowledge that we are life athletes, it will make us feel better. That puts us in a different place. We were talking about when your heart rate gets up to about 150, we go into that flight or fight mode. There’s another “F” in there and they don’t talk about it. I discovered it to the fight, flight or freeze. We will do that and that needs to be brought in there because people need to understand that. The thing about it is that anxiety can be positive when we use it. If we use that stress to our detriment, it is going to be harmful to us. You can switch how you’re thinking from being in fear to being in control even when you’re dealing with anxiety. You can all of a sudden go, “I’ve shifted gear and I’m using that a different way,” and then it becomes more fuel rather than static.
Kelly McGonigal, who I’ve quoted in my TEDx, which you said you had listened to. She talks about the challenge-response versus the stress-response. There are two different ways that we can use that stress, either to impact us the way you said where it’s holding us back or something that fuels us. It’s a simple shift. It’s the same energy. It’s how we direct that energy or don’t direct it. That’s powerful and freeze. Bringing it back to the context for the audience, that’s where procrastination takes place. It’s that flight or freeze is the procrastination like, “I’m not going to do anything.” I did a talk a few years ago now around weight loss. I talked about the binge restrict cycle that we go through. Not just when we eat, but also in our activities. We binge and then we burn out and fall apart. We’d binge movies and then maybe stopped for a while. We’d beat ourselves up, “I should have done that. I shouldn’t have a binge all weekend on movies.” We go into this binge and restrict cycle. Coming back to your forgiveness, I was thinking about that earlier. We can break that cycle too when we have some greater forgiveness for ourselves. That helps us to let go.
There are a couple of words I have deleted from my vocabulary. I’ve deleted “forget” and “forgot.” I’m tapping right now saying that I do not own those words anymore. I’m talking about them because after I had my stroke, Halloween of 2013, I could only speak two words. I could say “Donna” and “Crap.” Everybody started laughing and I thought, “I was reframing it.” I decided to reframe that from owning the stroke to using it as a plaything. You might think that’s weird, but I decided I would rather have fun than sit there and whine about not being able to talk. They airlifted me to Florida State Teaching Hospital. Along the way, the health care team is saying. She will never be able to speak again. It would take her eight to nine months before she can speak. It’ll probably be garbled for the rest of her life. I had this internal remote control. I’d go, “Delete, cancel that.” By doing a MindShift Exercise, I did this one particular MindShift Exercise probably 100 times in three days. On the third day, I was able to speak clearly.
I’ve read that in your book and that’s incredible. What I want people to get out of this is these MindShift Exercises, you’ve made them very easy and simple. It was Jim Rohn who said, “They might be simple, but you have to do them.” If you don’t do it, then it’s not simple. They are so powerful and look at the life shift that it’s created for you and that’s productivity. If you cut out the healing process from nine months to a couple of days. That shows that you can overcome anything that you’re procrastinating or afraid of. It’s how we show up for our time that I always say makes the difference. It’s our words and these practices that you’re talking about that help us to shift from one state to another quickly. To me, that’s the essence of productivity because you can use some kind of software or something like that, but it’s the mindset that sets the basis of how you show up.
We have access to the most powerful biological supercomputer in the world and it’s right here. It is our brain. It is our mind and we have the ability to use that. It’s our thoughts that create our beliefs and actions. We can change what’s happening in our life by the way we think because that creates our beliefs. How we show up is based on how we feel. Let me tell you the blessing in having the stroke. It taught me that we do have the ability to connect powerfully this mind, body, spirit connection. We have the ability to rewire our neural pathways. We have the ability to change our body on a molecular level by the way we think and what we focus on. As you talked about in your TED talk, it’s we change our focus. What do we want to be? That’s it. I didn’t understand that we do have the ability to affect our body on a physical level that’s profound by the way we think.
How we show up is based on how we feel. Click To Tweet You’ve got that firsthand. There’s nothing more proving your exercises than having the real thing. It’s incredible that you are able to look at that as a gift because there are people who are like, “How could you even see that as a gift?” The thing is because it’s easy to do that when you have the mindset that you have and the ability to access these tools. What’s important is that anybody can do this. Anybody can see any experience in their life as a gift because it’s going to be able to deliver also lessons and different ways of looking at things that are going to open up new possibilities.
Even in the middle of a crisis, when they’re terrible and things that you don’t have control over. This may be something that you’re going to go, “How in the world can I ever do that?” Even in the middle of that, take a moment and say, “What blessing could there be here? What opportunity to learn?” Reframe it just a tiny bit. They say everything is only six degrees from something else, so change it a little bit the way you think about it rather than focusing on it and whining. Leave the whining at the door, please.
That’s the way it showed up for me with my divorce process. That’s what I focused on. It was very difficult and at the same time, it became very easy because I did focus on what can I learn from this. What’s my role in this so that I could also look at how I needed to change. It makes you look at things completely differently. I’m proud of how that situation turned out. It was because of those questions that I asked myself. I think what you were getting at is we can shift our thinking through asking a simple question.
We can shift our thinking about the way we craft questions. One of my coaching clients contacted me on Facebook. He said, “I’m in trouble.” I said, “What kind of trouble?” He said, “My blood pressure. I went to the doctor, my blood pressure is high.” I said, “Give me the numbers.” It was like 168 over 125. That’s bad. I said, “What did the doctor say?” He said, “They’re going to do some tests and all that.” I said, “Consider using the why questions that we had crafted in relationship to his sleep patterns.” He has one of those watches that tell him when he’s moving around. He was able to go from 80 times of being restless during the night to twenty in one session of questions.
He was at the doctor’s office and I said, “What is it now?” It was like 186 over 145. I said, “Give me a call.” He called and I said, “You need to change those why questions. Focus on the why questions rather than saying, ‘Why is my blood pressure so high?’ It’s, ‘Why is my blood pressure going down easily now? Why am I feeling better? Why is it stepping down five points at a time?’” I haven’t asked him what his questions were, but I’ve got to get them because the next day he reached out to me and he said, “Donna, it’s working.” I said, “What are the numbers?” It was 135 over 75. The next day, he has a recheck at the doctor and they had not given him any medication. The nurse said, “What’s going on?” He said, “I told them about your book.”
Unfortunately, the medical model doesn’t accept this type of thing as quickly as they could.
The CEO of a hospital emailed me in and said, “Are these evidence-based?” I went back, “Yes, we’ve got evidence to that effect.” Who knows? We’ll see.
We can only look forward to that as a result because the medical model in my personal view is band-aiding. If you take a medication, it’s not going to the root and it’s not shifting from the thinking perspective. It’s like making a New Year’s resolution. You can think that “I want this,” but your thinking is what sabotages you from being consistent and doing it. That’s how I see that model. You have to go to the root cause if you want to make changes like this.
At the same time, I want to thank and give thanks to Western medicine. I’m a hybrid. I’m an Eastern philosopher combined with Western medicine. There’s too much intervention without working with the root cause of the body.
I’m not against Western or Eastern medicine. I also am a fan of acupuncture and different types of other. I believe it’s the combination that makes the most sense. My favorite doctors are the ones who know both because then they’re able to see which one is necessary in that particular moment.
When I went in for a heart procedure and I’m lying there on the table, the doctor comes in and says, “Is your name, Donna Blevins?” I said, “Yes, please call my coach.” I’m lying there and he says, “What kind of coach?” I said, “I’m a mindshift coach.” He said, “I need that.” I started coaching the doctor from the operating table and he ended up saying, “I have to have your book.” I’ve sold a book. I was sharing. I wasn’t trying to sell a book. He said, “What is it called?” I said, “MindShift on Demand.” He said, “I have to have that.” He was literally in my room the next day and I did a mind-shifting session with him by the way.
When you’re passionate about it, you love what you do and you can see the difference that it makes, it’s hard not to share it everywhere I can imagine. That’s the way I feel anyway as well. We’re going a little bit longer than I had anticipated because it’s so much fun. We can talk and talk. We’ll have to do also another session. You did touch upon your poker days and that a-ha that came from poker, but we’ll come back and we’ll do another session together and share some more tools. You did share the tag tool. Is there anything before we end this session that you wanted to share with the audience before we close?
I told you that I contacted my assistant and said, “I’ve got so much on here. Give me three time-saving tips.” This is what he texted me. He said, “Mindshift away from procrastination because you can do that based on how you’re looking at it. Mindshifting can restore order.” I love that because it does. “Mindshift away from cluttered and disorganized thinking. Procrastination disorder and cluttered thinking are all huge time wasters.”
If we had to look at cluttered and disorganized thinking, what’s one thing that we could do out of your toolset to help people?
Stop writing everything down, just make a little list. Beginning of the morning, make a list of three things. I do it at night before. Make a list of three things to look at and you put the most important at the top or you even put the most difficult one. You do that one first because when you do the most difficult one first, all of a sudden, you are in power.
It makes you feel awesome to get that hardest one done. Everything’s easy from there.
It’s what my mother taught me. Let’s leave it with a little bit of mother wisdom. Mama Peggy is what we call her. She would always say, “Eat your best food first, then you always have your best left.”
That’s what I do too when I’m eating. Everybody’s got a method of how they eat corn. There are different ways to eat it, but that is so true. That’s a great Mama wisdom is do that hardest thing first. Tell people where they can get ahold of you and where they can buy your book. Let’s give them the gift of going through the book and getting the twelve MindShift Exercises.
I have over 100 MindShift Exercises that I’ve created over the past few years to make them simple because my poker coaching clients would say, “What do I need to do?” I said, “You need to shift your mindset.” They’d go, “How do I do that?”
My verb is simplify. That’s why they said to write it down and that’s what happened. That’s why the book came out, MindShift on Demand. You can go to MindShiftOnDemand.com. It’s a very simple site. You can have opt-in for a four-minute audio of a MindShift Exercise. It’s the one that I walked you through, Penny. It’s a quick audio of me explaining it. I want to tell you right now, that’s all you’re going to get from me because I don’t have a whole lot of emails on that list. A lot of people, you opt-in and then you get email after email. You won’t get that from me because I need to reactivate myself. On top of my list is to start being more progressive in relation to communicating with people. On Facebook, I’m easy to find, Facebook.com/biggirlpoker because that’s my brand. They’d say, “That big girl’s playing Poker. I want to play with her.” That’s my brand. On Twitter, it’s @BigGirlPoker. On YouTube, it’s Big Girl Poker. I’ll be easy to find.
Thank you so much for being here. I’ve got to know a little bit more about how awesome you are and everyone wants more. I know they do because there’s so much more to be had, so many great tools.
I am honored to share time with you.
Thank you for being here and I know that you took away some great nuggets. I know that you’ve got to get that book. Maybe it’s not as sometime later. I want you to click now on the link and go to the site and get that book. These are twelve simple MindShift Exercises that you can use in every area of your life and pick one to start practicing. The one that feels the most impactful for you and the easiest for you to implement because that’s what it’s all about. It’s not just giving you tips on this show, it’s you putting it into practice because that’s how we get started. That’s how we get results is get started and then after you’re good and you’ve practiced that one, then you can add another one. I can tell you that I took NLP as well and I do mindshifting as well.
Donna has some good stuff. This is incredible and I’m going to be pouring over her content and practicing her content because it is powerful. There are a lot of different people that I’ve seen their stuff and it’s good. This stuff is good. This is super powerful. You need to get that book and put this into practice. Enough of me ranting about how awesome Donna is. Thank you so much for being here. We’ll see you in the next episode.
- Donna Blevins
- The Little Engine that Could
- MindShift on Demand
- @BigGirlPoker – Twitter
- Big Girl Poker – YouTube
About Donna Blevins
Donna Blevins, PhD is a MindShift coach, motivational speaker, and international professional poker player, who used her MindShift Exercises™ to accelerate her miraculous recovery from a life-threatening stroke.
With her roots in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, Donna grew up in a coal mining camp, and ‘grow UP’ she did to a towering 6’5”. She brings a down-to-earth humorous approach to her writing, speaking and coaching, and today she stands out as the Poker MindSet Coach and is lovingly called “The Big Girl of Poker”.
While moving from poverty to prosperity, Donna lost more often than she won. Even though it’s admittedly more fun to win, Donna candidly shares her intimate story of turning losses into wins by accessing the wisdom within those mistakes. Her innovative, game-based brain-retraining techniques help wounded warriors suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury, which earned her the Recognition Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Donna is transparent and openly shares how you can shift your mindset in an instant!
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Penny Zenker is a Focusologist, international speaker and best-selling author. She is passionate about helping people live more fulfilling lives by reducing stress, improving communication, and creating greater passion and focus. Her experience includes building and selling a multi-million dollar business, managing business turnarounds, living abroad for 16 years, and worked 5 years a Tony Robbins business coach. She will challenge you to think differently and inspire you to be your best. Her easy-to-understand frameworks and methods make implementation fast and easy.