Are You Playing Too Small as a Designer?

Shannel Wheeler
4 min readApr 30, 2023

I recently listened to a dope podcast where the host was talking about low-level goals, eye-level goals, and high-level goals. It was pretty eye-opening for me because it helped me to become more self-aware about my own.

Low-level goals: Are very doable, require minimal effort, and provide quick wins. But there’s no challenge or growth due to surface-level targets.

Eye-level goals: Attainable with effort and will yield expected results. These goals stretch you a bit, but not too far out of your comfort zone. Keeps you steady and consistent.

High-level goals: Difficult, risky, scary, and/or challenging. You will not have all the answers on how to accomplish the goal and will need help to see it through. Moves you out of your comfort zone but takes you to an entirely new level of growth.

None of these goals is wrong; as a matter of fact, it’s good to have a healthy mix of all three. Focusing on only one type of goal could lead to a lack of purpose, mediocrity, or burnout.

So when it comes to design and being a practitioner of design, how far do you want to go? Are you doing it for fun, as a career, or as a vehicle to reach a goal larger than yourself? Are you thinking big enough or are you only doing what you know? Have you taken some time to audit your actions (what you’ve been doing and why)? Only YOU know how high you are setting the bar for yourself.

I’ve had plenty of self-checks over the course of my career where I had to analyze if I was aiming too low, doing just enough to get by, or reaching for those seemingly larger-than-life goals. I also had to check if my thinking was too small, with thoughts like:

  • I can only work on certain types of projects
  • I must wait for an opportunity to be presented to me
  • There’s no way I can make that much money
  • I have to wait a long time to deserve that
  • I think I should charge more but I’m afraid of rejection
  • Doing it a different way is too risky
  • Will anyone recognize my skills with so much competition out there?
  • People who are successful have some secret advantage that I don’t have

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Shannel Wheeler

Left-brain creative | Brand/Design Implementation | Design Instruction and Inspiration | Creating with Purpose: https://shannelwheeler.com