When we're creating a school, business model or government program, we're not as inclined to take responsibility for the cheating that occurs. We don't see how we set ourselves up to have the problem or what causes so much cheating in the first place. We don't know what's missing, neglected or ignored intentionally in our design of the program. We expect cheating to magically disappear and leave us alone. We blame the cheaters when they game our beloved system. We fail to add the oil, gasoline and tire pressure to our troubled vehicle. We may even opt for feeling hopeless, persecuted and defeated by all the cheating we've asked for so convincingly.
We run on winning and meaning. If we run low on either of those, we get into the same kinds of trouble as a car running out of oil or fuel. When people are cheating, it's very likely they've been deprived of ways to win and sense of their situation. They compensate for what's missing by cheating. They defy the misunderstanding of their intentions and motives by their lack of cooperation. They correct the misperception of them as a loser, victim or passive participant by acting out the role of a cheater.
Our need to win gets met by competing against others or ourselves. We need obstacles that challenge our resourcefulness and test our abilities. We need to feel like we're making progress, covering new ground and growing in stature. Winning is an extrinsic reward that requires the recognition of others to seem real. We thrive on being seen for our accomplishments, advances and attainments.
Our need for meaning gets met by knowing why we're doing something, what it leads to, and how it fits into a larger context. We need added dimensions to the work we're doing that give it depth, significance, importance and context. Meaning is an intrinsic reward that requires us to recognize it ourselves to seem real. We thrive on coming to realizations, resonating with particular frames of reference and living an unfolding narrative.
There are at least four ways we lose out on getting both needs met which inspires us to then cheat:
- when we do the same thing everyday. We feel starved for winning and meaning when we appear as predictable and reliable as a good machine. We get crazy for some thrills when we already know the drill and play it by the rules.
- when nobody asks us about ourselves or listens to us. We don't get others to see that our head is in the game of competing against ourselves and facing challenges. They don't find out what meaning our situation has for us or how we value our accomplishments. We don't benefit from their recognition or any deeper reflections spawned by talking with them.
- when we're being controlled and over-structured by others. We feel like a pawn in someone else's game. We experience feelings of powerlessness, helplessness and chronic anxiety. We then feel the urge to shake off that creepy mood by becoming obnoxious, naughty or a force to be reckoned with.
- when we're given challenges that make no sense. We feel misunderstood, labeled or ignored. We cannot make ourselves feel motivated to do something that appears contrived, coerced or imposed on us inconsiderately. It appears we have nothing to lose by acting like a loser. We proceed to trash our reputation, self respect, and relationship that fell short of our expectations.
- provide variety and new challenges where there is some risk of failure, learning something very new or venturing into uncertain territory
- provide timeouts to listen to each other's perceptions, ambitions and self concepts
- provide the sovereignty required for each to direct one's own efforts, discretionary choices and selection among approaches to get a job done
- provide reminders of the underlying reason, overarching purpose and deeper significance of what is being required