Steal Novak Djokovic's Secret for Breaking Out of a Career Rut

Novak Djokovic is on a roll again in 2018, first winning Wimbledon and now the U.S. Open. But last year looked very different for the Serbian tennis star.

After a dominating performance in 2016 in which he won all four Grand Slams, in 2017 not only did he not win any majors, but he even suffered a humiliating loss to 72nd ranked Marco Cecchinato at the French Open. After he lost his number one status people started asking, has the once nearly invincible Djokovic peaked?

While Djovokic’s drama was being played out on center court before the whole world, the basic narrative is one a lot of professionals can relate to (if on a smaller scale). You’re advancing steadily professional when you hit a plateau. Maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s a skills gap, but for whatever reason you seem to be treading water (or even sinking) despite working equally hard.

What can you do about it? Maybe try following Djokovic’s example and take a hike. Literally.

Walking your way to personal and professional rejuvenation

After Djokovic crashed out of the French Open, the tennis star knew it was time for some serious reflection. So, he recently told the BBC, he and his wife packed their backpacks and took a five-day hike up Mont Sainte-Victoire in the south of France. The experience, he believes, was personally and professionally transformative.

"We sat down and we just looked at the world from that perspective," he relates. "I breathed in the new inspiration, new motivation. I thought of tennis, thought of the emotion that tennis provokes in me. It was all positives. I just felt like I had a new breath for this sport. The rest is history in terms of results."

"I strongly recommend you to climb it. Some great things will happen in your life," he adds.

Why walking + nature is a recipe for mental rejuvenation

Which sounds lovely for Djovokic, but does is his experience of rejuvenation through hiking apply to other stuck professionals? Both history and science suggest getting out for a walk in nature will probably have profound effects on you too.

First, as Quartz’s Kabir Chibber points out in his take on Djokovic’s return to form, many of history’s most impressive figures swore by long walks. "More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates said that 'walking is man’s best medicine.' Steve Jobs swore by them. Charles Dickens and Friedrich Nietzsche were fans," he notes

But there’s more than anecdotal evidence to suggest walking can transform your thinking. Recent science says the same. Some combination of the mild exertion and attention lulling tempo of walking has been shown to encourage creativity. Flashes of career-expanding insight are simply more likely to come to you when you’re up and on your feet.

And the effect is even more profound if, like the Djokovics, you do your walking in an awe-inducing natural environment. Not only do a raft of studies show that simply being in nature reduces stress, but the experience of feeling small in comparison to a mountain peak, vast forest, or star spangled night sky, nudges us to shift our perspective, get out of our egos, and think bigger about our lives.

"The 2015 New Horizons expedition to Pluto, vistas atop the Himalayas, and Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam ignite intellectual curiosity and provide aesthetic pleasures, but they also pull us out of our default mode of self-absorption," explains Psychology Today.

Hiking both busts us out of out narrow, repetitive, limiting worries and provides our brains the best possible environment to come up with creative new paths. It is, in other words, one of the best, research-backed antidotes to a mid-career (or mid-life) rut. Not just for Novak Djokovic but for anyone out there who feels they need to get their mojo back.

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