Yes, delusions keep us going, but sometimes we need more brutal self-testing, if only in small, segregated parts of our lives. When I teach Ph.D. macroeconomics, I run a simple experiment. I ask students to write practice exam questions for each other and post those on the Web, behind a link. The questions can be viewed at will, but until they start their practice exams the questions remain a secret.
The students are then supposed to practice these questions in their spare time. But too many people simply peruse the questions, ponder them, and discuss them, and "feel" they have a handle on them. I tell the students to have a friend or spouse pick out five of the questions as a surprise. The student should write out answers, under simulated exam conditions, with the clock ticking.
The point is this: most people do not study very effectively. The study to feel they are trying. They study to feel better about themselves. They do not always study to succeed in their chose field. They spend hours staring blankly at sheets of paper and nodding about what they understand. Students should spend more time trying to solve problems or answer questions, usually under simulated exam conditions and with a clock ticking. Tick, tick, tick... that's the way to go, and yes, the whole point is that it hurts.
That's Tyler Cowen in his "Discover Your Inner Economist," page 125. I'm about 2/3rds of the way through the book and I've found it an enjoyable read. There's a lot of psychology mixed in with economics in Professor Cowen's book. Perhaps a more appropriate title would be "Discover Your Inner Behavioral Economist."
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Here's my earlier advice on taking notes.
Update: I really like the chapter that covers dining. He argues that places with greater income inequality will have the best food. The wealthy in those areas have the demand for fine foods and the poor folk will provide the supply of labor to pick food, prepare it fresh, etc. Places with less income inequality will either not have much in terms of dining establishments (overall poor places) or will have dining establishments that use a lot of previously-prepared foods (to save on labor costs).