Do We Have Free Will?



I have always been intrigued with this age-old debate on Free Will.

I look at my present reality and I feel I make my own choices. I choose what I want to eat, where I want to work, and who I would like to meet.

However, over the years I have read several Religious and Spiritual texts claiming that everything in life is a planned event and we are just playing out the movie of our destiny as we go through life with an illusion of free will.

Let’s introspect this dilemma together with one example:

  1. If I invite you to a buffet for lunch, with veg food on the right table and non- veg on the left table. Both tables have a selection of dishes from different cuisines. You would probably go towards the table of your choice and choose exactly what you want to eat from all the various dishes present.  You feel you have used your free will to decide what to eat and what to avoid. Right?
  2. Now consider this, “what specifically prompted you to choose the dishes on your plate?” Was it cultural or religious belief, your upbringing or a belief that one food is better than the other, or simply the memory of the taste of the food the last time you had it. Whatever the reason you chose those dishes and rejected all the others, the chances are whenever you go for a buffet or to a restaurant you always choose the same dishes.

So, the question is, do we really have the choice to choose what we want from all the various offerings on display or are we compelled by our beliefs, conditioning, upbringing, and memories to always choose the same things that make us comfortable and safe, and avoid that which is different and out of our comfort zone? We tend to face the same challenges even if the characters and situations change. We normally find ourselves unconsciously caught up in a habituated pattern of thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, and experiences.

Is there a way out? Once we become aware of our beliefs, thoughts, and conditioning, we can introspect on how they influence our lives and impacts our ability to freely choose from all that is being offered. We can then consciously choose what congruently works for us and what does not. We can use this awareness to reframe our beliefs, neutralize our memories, stretch our thinking, realign our values and create new choices, possibilities, and experiences in life.

We do have free will but only when we are consciously, and totally aware of making a choice in the present moment, failing which, our life is a series of automatic thoughts and behavior patterns that trap us in our illusionary reality of free will.

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