(A Course in Miracles)
Neurologists ran a strange experiment. They observed brain activity and found that there is an institution in our brain that apparently knows about a decision before we are consciously aware that we made this choice! Could it be that we don't have a free will at all and only ex-post explain what we would have done anyway?
Have you ever seen people on auto-pilot? The way they run after money, fame, power, entertainment, or trophy spouses? Do you have observed people who worry excessively? The way they would like to protect and scheme themselves into safety? Everybody probably acts like a robot on one level or other, the question is whether we can - with the help of a spiritual quest - increase our degrees of freedom.
Sure you can! Have you ever meditated on a day when you feel absolutely carefree? You perceive thoughts popping up and they do - just like cloud formations in the sky - disappear as quickly. In contrast, how different everything becomes once you go after something that you care a lot about. Thoughts and actions soon can't be separated any longer and the deeper you get lost in whatever it is that gets you going, the more intense the stream of thoughts become until they can't be shut off anymore.
Have a look at the wheel below. Thoughts bubble from what appears to be the subconscious. But they themselves are a function of what you have been occupied with in the past. Thoughts form in your mind and once you start engaging with them you act them out, which on turn gets the new subconscious thought pattern going. As long as you live this wheel will always be spinning; but you can definitely decide on its intensity and the direction you want to take with it.
The question is now, how can you spin this wheel in the desired direction: away from fear, worry and greed towards love, peace of mind and freedom. That's where the spiritual path comes in. Engage in stuff that gives you peace and happiness and avoid the stuff that pulls your energy frequency down. It is a process. You can't will yourself to be an angel. And when the dark stuff pops up from the subconscious at times then you have to deal with that to.
As you clean your agenda you will observe that a distance starts growing to the thoughts that go through your mind. They no longer define you. I started the note with a strange neurological experiment. Whether we have free will in the end I cannot say. But I can tell you that you can always look back on the past - very much like a recovering addict would - and decide that in some areas of your life you now have a choice whereas before you didn't.