It is true that there are choices that people make that are based on free will. However, it is also true that there are choices people make that are not made as a result of conscious choice. For those people, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, drinking too much, constantly worrying, feeling overly anxious and depressed can not be stopped by mere will power or choice.
Which is it then? Do we have the free will to make the choices in our lives based on our own unique needs and wants? Or are the choices we make dependent on influences, past and present, neurological and biological? I believe each is true depending on the various situations each of us are faced with in life.
However, there are still those who believe that our decisions are driven by our unconscious past programming and not solely by conscious choice. They believe that when a decision reaches conscious awareness, we experience it as our having made a conscious choice. Hence we live our lives on the assumption that we are making decisions of our own free will, and directing our own future. Such beliefs creates tension and resistance, hiding our true nature and the peace of mind that we are seeking.
In our conscious sense of self, we continuously make decisions, weighing the pros and cons, coming to conclusions, choosing what to do and when to do it. During these times, we experience our selves making choices and having free will. However, we need to be aware that there equally are times when choices in the here and now are dictated by forces outside our consciousness. In growing up, survival was critical. Therefore there is a natural tendency for the mind to gravitate to the familiar of what we learned when growing up. The problem is relying on these beliefs too much as adults can lead us astray. So as a consequence, we are often, consciously or unconsciously, influenced to make choices that we may or may not want to make.
As adults, many believe that if we can just get the world the way we want it to be, which includes other people, then at least our world will seem familiar. In order not to be lulled into making pre-determined choices, we need to be challenge our tendency to automatically believe things we have been exposed to from our past.
Free will versus pre-determination are opposite side of the same coin. Both are true. Both are an illusion, depending on the situation at hand. Be aware how each manifests itself. Being aware can begin the process of an openness to experiences rather than being controlled by our past or present environment, as well as attempting to tightly control what happens in the here and now. Trying to protect old worn out beliefs prevents us from experiencing free will.
Getting out of way of ourselves can begin by getting involved in the world around us. There is still much to do in the world; resolving injustices, taking care of our environment, taking better care of ourselves so we can take better care of others, etc. Being focused on the here and now and responding appropriately to our needs in any given situation, rather than being self absorbed can make us truly free.
As always, comments, suggestions, feedback can be directed to myself by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.