Hi Fellow Badasses,

welcome to Badass Guild! I offer life and health coaching for those who are eager to take Bold Action towards Destiny and Authentic Steps to Success = BADASS!

Who am I?

As you can see from the rest of my website, I am a game designer / researcher in my “other” life. I’m also a writer, performer, mom of Max, wife of Mischa, musician (blues piano), storyteller, badass-boots- and leather-jacket-wearer, tea-maker, ocean-lover (I live on an island in the Baltic Sea!), steampunk enthusiast, unflinching optimist and stargazer.  In 2010, shit hit the fan when an intense, 12-year relationship finally went up in flames. The three years foreshadowing the break-up also brought with it a slew of other, rather uncomfortable questions about where my life was headed.

At the time, I was a post doctoral researcher at MIT. But did I really want to stay in academia? Why? Why not? Did I actually want to be in a relationship? Did I want a family, eventually? My parents certainly didn’t encourage me to have one. Did that mean they didn’t want me to be a mom, that they thought I’d suck at it, or did it mean they just didn’t want to put any pressure on me to reproduce? Where did I want to live? Was Austria my home, just because I had grown up there? Were the US, where I always wanted to live? Somewhere else? What did I value more than anything? Why was I chasing from one success to the other, feeling empty and disoriented between external accolades and never happy for long once I received them?

Within the myriad of inner (and external) voices, it was entirely unclear which one was (aligned with) mine. I knew, however, it was in there, somewhere, and I had to tune into it. I vaguely remembered that I used to have good intuition – a long time ago. That it was possible for me to be in sync and at peace. Even though at the moment, I was as confused and lost as could be and had a hard time believing this would ever change again. But, the only way out is through and so I decided to take a huge step back, let go of any (perceived) external expectations, and figure out what the hell it was I was here to experience, be, give and do. On my own terms!

For the decade that followed I  read tons of self-help (Julia Cameron’s brilliant book “The Artist’s Way” is still one of my favorites!); studied play and creativity (everyone should read Stuart Brown’s book “Play” as well as Joseph Meaker’s overlooked but fascinating oeuvre “The Comedy of Survival”); fell in love with the insight that the opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression; embraced improv and participatory theatre; got my mind blown by gestalt therapy and Jungian psychodrama; got my butt kicked by an elderly lady in Tai-Chi class and discovered how much my mind and body were intertwined and how little attention I had paid to impacting my emotional life through my physicality; started running and literally ran out of depression during a cold, cold winter in Cambridge, Massachusetts; felt gradually better and committed and re-committed daily to checking in with my internal compass to see what spoke to me today, what I truly wanted to do, and what I had no use for.

Don’t get me wrong. For about three years, life pretty much sucked. At the end of this time, I moved back to Austria. It continued to be difficult for another year. I lived in my  old place again that I had left  for Cambridge. It was freight with memories of my old Self, my old goals, my old relationship. I cried so hard in the beginning, I thought I’d puke. I didn’t. I had some really great friends whom I made sure to meet regularly (Irene, Claudia, Kathi – you are the best!). I started new projects.  I co-founded a company with some lovely, creative weirdos. I married one of them. Best decision I ever made. A year later, I came back to academia as a tenure track assistant professor in game design and my new love and I moved to Chicago. We decided we wanted kids. It didn’t happen for two years. Now we have a son, Max.  He teaches me patience every day, the value of heart-connection, paying attention and goofing off.

At some point I got tenure. That was strange, because I didn’t really feel relief. I had gotten restless again. Oh No! All those old questions came flooding back, demanding to be answered in correspondence to my new life situation: my academic career was as safe as could be, we were raising a child in the US, and we had aging parents and extended family back in Austria. Should we stay where we were or move back to Europe? Also, how could I keep growing emotionally, spiritually and intellectually and contribute to the people around me? For about two years, everything was up in the air, with no clear path ahead of us. What had fundamentally changed for me, though, over the last decade, was that I had come to trust my instincts again. 1000%. Sure, there were doubts sometimes and some anxiety occasionally about ever finding a clear direction again. But I had faith in the individual steps I took – they felt right! I studied clinical and mental health counseling for a year (while still having a full time academic position), then discovered coaching. I got certified as a health coach through Health Coach Institute and decided to also study with Robbins-Madanes in their CORE 100 training and become a strategic intervention coach. Simultaneously, a senior position opened up at Uppsala University at their most excellent game design program. I had visited the program before and had been blown away by the students and faculty – as well as the program’s location on Gotland – a gorgeous, little island in the Baltic Sea. A (relatively) quick plane ride away from Austria. Set sails, new adventure, here we come!

What do I coach on?

My coaching is informed by what I’ve lived through and by my love for people, play, story, metaphor and systems thinking. Finding personal meaning in life, decision making, relationships, self-confidence, cultivating intuition, connection and creativity – those are the big themes I gravitate towards. I explore with my clients how to be still in the eye of the hurricane. How to rest. How to be open to the quiet voice of intuition to find your True North. How to say “No” joyfully and gracefully, because you know what you’re saying “YES” to. How to love others with an open heart, starting with self-love and self-respect. How to enjoy connection without giving yourself up. How to get more of what you want to experience in life. Due to my experience in the academic as well as the creative field, I coach a lot of fellow academics (from undergraduate and graduate students to full professors and staff) as well as creatives (fellow game designers, writers, musicians). But if you’re none of these, yet want to get more out of life or make a change, and are ready to take action and play, I’m here for you! 🙂

How do I coach?

First, I listen and I ask questions. I want to understand where you’re coming from, what brings you to me, what lights you up, what your roadblocks are and what strategies you’ve tried to overcome them. I might invite key people in your life into the conversation, if you’re on board with that and if it makes sense. Cause let’s face it: there are a lot of folks who’re much more important to you than I am! Together, we will determine goals. Those goals can be very concrete – e.g. I want to find my dream job – or a bit more abstract: I want to feel grounded, balanced and optimistic in my daily life. Goals give direction, but are not set in stone and can change throughout our time together and beyond. We also identify action steps to get you moving towards those goals. This is a collaborative process. I firmly believe you are the expert of your own experience and you know which steps feel most empowering to you. I help you identify options, though, and to see the bigger picture. I will also hold you accountable. Week by week (or how often we agree upon meeting), we will revisit your action steps and see how they went. There is no way for you to do this wrong. Anything is relevant data: you did them and made progress, great! You didn’t and we get curious around what hindered you and how we could course correct to overcome obstacles. As a health coach, I believe that reducing stress, increasing sleep quality and taking care of one’s body provide an important basis for our success – so we may talk a bit about those things. I’m not a calorie-counter, though, and don’t like diets. I won’t force you to eat spinach or give up coffee – because I know you won’t, if you don’t want to. Health coaching is just part of the bigger picture of working towards a healthy body-mind-spirit. As a life coach (and game designer / storyteller), I make use of metaphor and allegory to understand and challenge deep rooted, limiting beliefs. I’m very influenced by existential psychology as well as depth and archetypal psychology and borrow from myth and archetypes to understand patterns and disrupt them. As a game designer, I also think systemically – what are all the elements in your life that are interconnected, how? What are the hidden rules by which you live and how can we create more agency for you by making these rules obvious and deliberate? We might just design a board game together in one session, to get clear on obstacles or inner conflicts and then modify its possibility space for a more desirable outcome 🙂

Most importantly, though, I believe in coaching as a mutual, collaborative and joyful experience – something we both look forward to, because it gives us room to play, to get the back off the wall, to envision, think through, plan and put into action new ways of acting and being and to focus on personal strengths and resources.

If you want to give it a whirl, send me a note at: dcrusch16[at]gmail.com. First session is free.