It’s not about the moment and making spontaneous decisions, it’s about planning for the future. For example, in this moment, as I try to fall asleep, I could listen to music. If I chose Radiohead my future would be different than if I chose Daft Punk. This is because my brain chemistry would react differently to the different styles of music and thus different thoughts would emerge and lead me down a different cognitive paths. As a result, the innumerable decisions I’ve made and not made, large and small, to reach this point could never be fully realized. There are just too many options to manage, even in a single day or a single hour. Instead, it’s about programming yourself to utilize tools and discipline to continuously shape your future. Your momentary self should almost be on autopilot attempting to achieve the strategic goals the other side of your mind is planning for. This means you need to understand yourself and learn methods to manage the chemistry and situations that arise each day and alter them in your favor. It’s a long game of carefully crafted statistical choices which means the sooner you start the better you may fare later in life. The other way I’ve imagined it is like a radial menu from the “Sims” video game franchise. Each moment has a menu available to it with a myriad of options to choose from. You tend to choose the ones that are most similar to past decisions or most comfortable to you, but the others are available if you’re feeling daring or adventurous. And who knows what other realities could exist if you started to choose the other options. That’s where this goes off the rails and you realize how insignificant your decision-making powers might be. Have you ever made a truly conscious decision before? And even if you have, it may be one decision out of hundreds or thousands made in a day. Is that even significant? Does that really affect the outcome in any meaningful way? That’s why it may be more about long-term strategy than momentary decision-making because developing mental tools shapes the statistical outcomes over time. Instead of trying to manage the unmanageable mass of decisions immediately in front of you, you can rely on more abstract systems to make those decisions for you. Then you can spend your conscious effort improving those tools so that as situations arise you make the right, productive, and principled decision.
Additional note: I came to this conclusion after auditing my own decisions throughout many days over the past couple years. There seems to be decisions I make that are automated, but not with any strategic foresight applied to them. They are relics from my past life that don’t really benefit me in any way. They’re bad habits or laziness or just unaware actions that could be replaced with something more useful. To understand this, I think you need to reflect on your actions and pay close attention to the things you do during the day and consider alternatives that might be more efficient, more kind, more courteous, more productive, and just better overall. Also, to clarify the Sims reference, you can search Google Images for “sims radial menu” to get a visual of what I’m talking about. I imagine that this menu pops up at any significant decision-making moment and if you intercept your normal thought process you can make a different decision before your automated self clicks the button that is most expected or comfortable. This can help break patterns of bad behavior and reveal new insights about other options you might never consider otherwise.