What Is the Importance of Values in People's Lives?

Personal values are deemed important because they provide people with an internal compass by which to govern their actions and decisions. In short, they offer a systematic or structural approach to ethics that can also accommodate or reflect political, social, cultural and religious commitments.

Some personal values are extremely utilitarian, being designed simply to help individuals avoid pain and seek pleasure. Because these types of values seem to reflect physiological impulses, they sometimes earn scientific credibility. In many other cases, however, personal values aim to help people produce positive effects on their daily world, such as those often required by altruism, religious compassion or ethical philosophy. These forms of values are typically considered far more subjective than the former, even culturally determined, with some critics arguing that they are grounded more in social convention than in moral reality.

Personal values are also important to everyday life because they commonly inform people's political choices, the candidates they vote for and the policies they pursue, especially concerning social issues. In still other cases, personal values see broader application in business environments, where they are integrated into corporate cultures, as manifest in mission statements. In all of these cases, positive personal values are believed to translate into improved behaviors, resulting in better practices, laws, customs, families and societies.