Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Much Can A Vision Of Your 'Future Self' Motivate You To Achieve?


NPR's Invisibilia started a new season this summer examining the forces that shape who we are and who we will become. Today, Invisibilia co-host Alix Spiegel introduces us to a young man whose vision of his future self started at a dance party.


ALIX SPIEGEL, BYLINE: Picture a big hall with, like, 300 kids, everybody crowded in and sweaty, getting funky.


SPIEGEL: The one very unusual thing about this dance party, though? It's in an orphanage in Syria.

CHRIS SITIC: Yeah, it was awesome. I still remember everybody just dancing.

SPIEGEL: This is Chris Sitic (ph). He was one of the kids at the party, which happened back in 2007. Chris was 10 at the time, and he says he'd never seen people move this way. He'd never heard this kind of music, and he was dumbfounded. He says he started rushing around trying to understand, who was the source of this magical music?

SITIC: I was asking people, what's happening? Like, what's that and what's that?

SPIEGEL: And then the source of all of this awesomeness became clear.

SITIC: Boom. There is a DJ.

SPIEGEL: He couldn't take his eyes off of her.

SITIC: Yeah. She had, like, a bunch of CDs and, you know, big headphones. And I'm like, what's happening right there?

SPIEGEL: Chris was captivated. And was it like the kind of thing where you saw her, and all of a sudden, you were like, that will be me?

SITIC: Yeah, like I want to be the one who's doing that.


RICHARD SALTER: (Singing) Pump up your heart, hands in the air. Pump up your heart, hands in the air. Pump up your heart, hands in the air.

SPIEGEL: Now, lots of 10-year-old boys see a person doing a cool thing and think, I want to be that. But for Chris, this was way more. Chris was shy, a wallflower. He was a kid living in a Syrian orphanage. He had no parents, very limited access to the outside world. But in that moment, he suddenly saw a future, a person that he wanted to be.

SITIC: Boom. I want to be a DJ.

SPIEGEL: For the next decade, no matter how awful the situation Chris found himself in, this future version of himself was like a beacon.

SITIC: This is like pretty much why I'm alive.

SPIEGEL: When he was in his early teens, Chris spent a year and a half homeless in Damascus and then in Beirut.

SITIC: Just running around trying to find a job, trying to find something to eat, just trying to survive.

SPIEGEL: It was horrible.

SITIC: Two of my friends died. And anxiety and depression started kicking me really hard.

SPIEGEL: But always in these dark moments, this image of the DJ that he would one day become would appear in his mind telling him to keep going.

SITIC: Just keep pushing forward.

SPIEGEL: This image of yourself, how many times a day would you bring that up in your head?

SITIC: Every time I listen to music.

SPIEGEL: Hundreds of times a day?

SITIC: Yeah.

SPIEGEL: Eventually, Chris found a shelter to live in. He got a job scrubbing plates and started to assemble elements so that he could make this potential self into an actual self. He got headphones, started watching YouTube videos...

SITIC: Watching, watching, watching.

SPIEGEL: ...Began teaching himself to make electronic music, invented a stage name...

SITIC: Lodestio (ph).


SPIEGEL: And then one day when he was 19, this faith that he had in his future self was put to a real test. You see, Chris was granted a visa to go to Canada, a place where he could pursue this dream. So he packed his bags, headed to the airport. But in these final moments, right before he got on the plane, he found himself hesitating. Chris was leaving everything that he knew for an idea. He had this concept in his head of who he might one day be, but that was all it was, a concept, a beautiful but at this point fictional idea that he'd conjured that might never become reality. Was it worth it?

SITIC: The last five minutes when I was waiting for the airplane, I said, man, what the hell am I doing here? Why I'm leaving?

SPIEGEL: But then he says he heard that voice in his head again, his future self.

SITIC: You were born for this. That's what he says to me all the time. How the hell are you going to stop right now?

SPIEGEL: How the hell are you not going to become me? So DJ Lodestio walked down the jetway.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: Three. Two. One. Here we go. (Singing) I'm not here to say goodbye. I'm here to take the prize. You can see it in my eyes.

KING: That's Alix Spiegel. You can hear the rest of this episode and the latest season of Invisibilia wherever you get your podcasts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alix Spiegel has worked on NPR's Science Desk for 10 years covering psychology and human behavior, and has reported on everything from what it's like to kill another person, to the psychology behind our use of function words like "and", "I", and "so." She began her career in 1995 as one of the founding producers of the public radio program This American Life. While there, Spiegel produced her first psychology story, which ultimately led to her focus on human behavior. It was a piece called 81 Words, and it examined the history behind the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.