Is there a formula for creating stakes?
I thrive off of formulas. I don't do well with brainstorming or figuring out how things in my stories should happen, but I can make a lot of progress if there's a one-size-fits-all formula which can consistently nudge me in the right direction. Over the years, I've developed formulas for almost every aspect of writing that I can, except for one: stakes.
Without fail, every single time I sit down to develop and outline a new story, the one thing which will always stop my progress dead is the stakes. It's always been this way. I've done lots of research into stakes, and I have a very good grasp on how to escalate stakes, and an excellent understanding of what kind of stakes I need in which situation. But the one thing which always trips me up is how to create them in the first place.
Question: Is there a formula/process which will help me create/brainstorm stakes?
A quick Google search reveals endless information on how to raise or escalate stakes. But nothing on how to actually create them in the first place. I seem to have the opposite problem of most other writers: where they have stakes and struggle to raise them, I have little trouble raising them but don't have them to begin with.
Note: I know some writers might greatly dislike the idea of applying formulas to everything, and might be tempted to tell me that I'm going about it the wrong way. Please realize that such an answer will not help me. I am a plotter, and not a pantser or discovery writer. Formulas are what allow me to write.
Example: In my current story, my main character starts out living the life he most desires. However, he, for some reason (this is where I need help), has an overpowering need to help people who need him. If he sees someone who is lost, he is compelled to lead them. As the story progresses, this need increasingly keeps the character from his idyllic existence, until by the end he is forced to forsake his old life forever. My question is... why? The character's choice to help those in need is the right one, but he has multiple opportunities to leave those in need and simply rest back in his old life. The excuse that 'he can't do so with a clear conscience' only goes so far, as he ultimately decides that he must permanently lead and help these people, removing any hope of ever going back to his old life. I need a really good reason he's forced to that conclusion, even though he wants his old life with all his heart, but that reason - or stake - eludes me.