Free will is the capacity to chose. It is so defined because human action is very much propelled by choice. Free will gives us the ability to choose freely one of several possible alternatives, to make decisions the outcome of which we do not know in advance. Because of free will human choices are not predetermined, and we are not subject to forces outside of our control.
Why should I be aware of this?
Exercising free will becomes complex, when the question could we have chosen otherwise is also there. When one is not able to make a choice one wants but can only make a choice that is so called real, then arguably free will is not a boundless and has its limitations. And if it is with limitations how can it be called a free will?
How does this affect me?
We would like to believe that we have free will as all of us like to have control over our lives. We see ourselves as independent individuals with a mind of our own. The belief is that everything that we do is up to us and the events of our lives were caused by our own choice of actions.
Without freewill we would have no control over our goals and choices and all our actions would simply be the inevitable operation of forces outside of ourselves. Life would not only be bleak, but several aspects such planning, self-esteem, prescriptive morality, self- and social responsibility would be quite meaningless.
All about free will
Free will is born out of our introspective conviction that we are in control of many of our choices, and thus our destiny - that we are free to think and decide. We contrast this flexible, conscious control that we enjoy with the involuntary action of, say, our heartbeat or digestion. Being different in nature from animals, we are aware of our ability to think and of the consequences of our choices. As we can think of the consequences of our action, we can claim responsibility for them.
How are freewill choices made?
The aspect of our mind which is aware of the "self" does the choosing. We choose to think or not to think. We choose what to think about, how much and how long to concentrate on an issue, how many options to consider, which of the options to select, etc. We also make higher level choices, such as desirable character traits, careers, friends and lovers, and of course, moral decisions such as when to lie or tell the truth.
Free will comprises only conscious choices which we can monitor and influence, and does not include subconscious and unconscious choices. Free will differs from "normal" choice, the kind that machines and animals make. This is because of our ability to think abstractly, and in our awareness of ourselves and our own thinking. We understand what we are thinking and this gives us the control.
How do we choose?
Free will does not include non-logical, uncaused thinking. Our deliberate choices are based on evidence and values, and on anticipating their consequences. It is not correct to believe that freewill choices are not based on antecedent causes, that they are made for no reason; or that they are based on random factors or factors beyond conscious thought. It is because we consciously weigh the pros and cons of each freewill choice that such choices represent personal responsibility.
In our free will there exists a pitiful weakness. Though we have the ability to make a decision, we do not have the power to carry out all decisions according to our will. Free will may devise a course of action, but it has no power to execute its intention.