7 Self-Development Projects You Can – & Should – Start Right Now

Self-development can come in all flavors, and if you have extra time on your hands these days, you could use it to start on something meaningful. Self-development is just another way of practicing self-care, whether you're looking to add to your repertoire of life experiences or simply gain more fulfillment. Now is as good a time as any to feel great about yourself and chase your dreams.

What exactly is self-development? It’s all about focusing on the kind of progress that’s important to you and your life journey — whether that means learning more about a particular topic, improving your career, picking up a new hobby or improving your thought processes and overall mental health.

The best forms of self-development look different to everybody, and that's exactly the point. Improving yourself is all about focusing on you and what would add to your life experience. So why not dive into whatever pulls on your heartstrings? Here are seven possible starting places for your own self-development journey:

  1. 1. Start a yoga practice

    indoor yoga

    Yoga offers many health and life benefits for you to take full advantage of, whether you practice at a studio or in your own home. Doing yoga a few times a week can lower your cortisol levels to decrease stress and prevent weight gain, lift your mood and make you healthier overall. In addition to providing a great workout, practicing yoga can make you calmer and help you with mindfulness.

    You can start with online videos or beginner classes to get yourself moving, or simply devote more time to your practice if you've let it fall by the wayside. 

    Looking for a soothing, supportive yoga community online? Yoga With Adriene is the perfect blend of variety, meditation and challenge for any level.

  2. 2. Learn a language

    The Lalagirl Reading A Book Outside

    Learning a new language is a great skill and exercise for the brain. Whether you'd rather approach it like a love affair by engaging with a culture you find fascinating, or go a little more practical by learning a language commonly spoken in your area, learning a language takes work. However, it's a worthwhile endeavor. Plus, there are online classes, apps and even YouTube videos you can use to immerse yourself. 

    Xandie K. has been using her unexpected downtime during COVID-19 to further develop her interests by practicing her language skills. “I’ve been using my time to read as much as I can about my interests and have been studying Russian so I can continue to learn,” she says.

    If you’re looking for a free language learning experience you can commit to in only a few minutes a day, download the Duolingo app! If you have some spare change to dedicate, try Babbel.

  3. 3. Save up for an adult gap year

    Woman standing

    Who doesn't want to go all "Eat Pray Love" these days? Whether you're picking one destination or traveling around, a year abroad can be a lofty goal to save for, but it's also a brilliant opportunity for self-discovery and cultural exchange. You can enroll in a language school abroad or make your trip a reward for learning your target language by gifting yourself with the opportunity to polish your skills. Or, instead of traveling, you could just take some time off and see where life takes you.

    We might not talk about it much in our culture, but taking a break can sometimes be the key to self-discovery. Take it from Tianna S., a Her Campus writer whose year off after graduating college was the best decision she ever made. 

    “I did an internship out-of-state, completed a yoga teacher training, and worked a few jobs (restaurant, yoga teaching, freelancing) while applying to grad school,” she says. “Despite filling my gap year with lots of activities, it was amazing to have time to simply breathe and enjoy life...plus, it gave me the confidence to pursue things I really love instead of just going in a direction I thought I ‘should’ go in.” Why not give yourself the gift of time?

  4. 4. Start a side business

    Hands typing on a computer

    Do you have a crafting skill that everyone in your life adores, or the perfect idea for a little boutique you've always dreamed of opening? These goals can serve as the ideal self-development ideas this year. Why not turn your ideas or hobbies into some fulfillment on the side? 

    You can go full LLC mode and start getting your affairs in order for a full-time business venture, but if you — understandably — don’t have the time or resources, creating a sharing platform or online presence can be just as satisfying. Think about starting an art, craft or hobby-focused instagram account, blog or Etsy store — it will give you a chance to express yourself while providing you with a goal to work towards.

  5. 5. Volunteer

    sign saying fight today for a better tomorrow

    If you have a cause you care about, and you’re itching to give back and make a positive change in the world, offer some time and energy to help out. If you're not sure of your passions yet, try volunteering at a few places and see where you fit best. Whether your calling is caring for kittens at an animal shelter or helping your local library, you can make a difference in your community right now.

  6. 6. Go to grad school

    Anna Schultz-Girl On Computer With Notebooks

    If learning a language or skill on your own isn't quite your style, how about some traditional education? Graduate school isn't all night classes and TA positions — there are numerous ways to get started nowadays. You can go back full speed ahead and complete an additional degree in your field, or start slow with a class or two online. Either way, graduate school can serve as a self-improvement idea that enriches your life immensely.

    Even if tackling further education sounds like a great idea, remember to take some time to consider the decision first. Like Paula A. says, “Rushing into grad school wouldn't be good for my mental health (and I'm still not completely decided on if I want to go to grad school at all).” She recommends taking “the downtime to reflect and truly think about the trajectory I want my career to take.” Do some research on your options — reading up on schools and programs can be a side project in itself!

  7. 7.  Take on a passion project

    The Lalagirl Smiling Holding Journal

    If you want to make a change in your life, try not to take everything so seriously, or maybe allow yourself to get über serious about something you love. Taking on a passion project that you've felt a calling for can be an amazing way to work on yourself in your free time. It can be just for you — as in starting something new and feeling it out for the first time — or you can share it with the world. Do what makes your heart sing.

Self-improvement is different for everybody, and you can totally make the most of it. Pick a direction from one of these self-development project ideas and get started. Who knows? You could make your life shine in ways you never thought possible.