Let's say you're a hardworking student. Why did you choose that you wanted to work hard?
You want to be hardworking because you want to score well, and this is because you want to graduate, which is because you want a good job, which you want in order to support a good size family, so that you can feel the fulfillment of reproductive and parental accomplishment you've been told of, so you can increase your general well-being, so that you avoid suffering and have good health...so that you don't die.
But why in the heck do you want all those things? Particularly, why do you not want to feel misery? Why not die?
These are not things you've consciously decided you want for a logical reason, these are biological desires that we did not choose. Yes, you make the "decisions" to do things, but these decisions are made based on our desires. You don't choose the things you desire. Your desires came about because of factors you had no control over.
I don't think you could have acted differently in the past simply because I don't think you could have wanted something else.
Consider the ice cream flavors vanilla and chocolate. You, having tried both before, have a preference for one over the other, but why? "Because it tastes better"? You didn't choose your taste buds, and you didn't choose your physiological reward system. You made a "choice" to eat that flavor, but only because you are satiating a desire that you didn't choose.
Don't think your a slave to your taste buds? Well, you might not be. You might have a rational reason to eat one over the other. Perhaps one flavor is, from your research, objectively more healthy than the other. Well, choosing that one even though it might not taste as good means your freely chose to eat that flavor right? Nope. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you are now satiating yet another desire that you didn't choose - a desire for eating healthy foods - a desire for well-being - a desire to live as long as possible (or the reverse, which you wouldn't have chosen to desire either).
Now, one could, after hearing this, simply eat the flavor that they do not want and "regain their free will". But the issue with this is that you literally are catering to a new desire you didn't choose: freedom.
Perhaps you don't actually have a preference. Maybe you indeed like both flavors equally. Well, in that case, how do you decide which one to eat when presented with the choice? When asked which one you'd like at the counter, in that very moment, you experience what is called "a thought popping into your head".
What in the world does that mean? A thought? It popped? Where in your head did it pop into? It's a whim, and you didn't decide for that exact thought to "pop into your head".
That thought of course, being the flavor which you will then tell the attendant so he/she knows which kind to serve you, which you do so that you satiate your desire to avoid awkward situations, which is due to a whole other chain of desires.
You can't control which flavor popped into your head. Much like how you wouldn't control the order of which the names of US states "pop into your head" when asked to name them all.
You can trace any decision back to your desires, and since you don't have a choice over these desires, any choice you've made...wasn't really your choice.
Or was it? Let me know your thoughts below!