In The Left Hand of Darkness, several of the characters must make sacrifices to achieve their goals. Genly Ai, for instance, must sacrifice a lifetime away from his home planet, essentially losing his family and friends, in order to visit Gethen. He visits in the hopes that he will gain something, that Gethen will join the Ekumen and participate in the trade of technology, goods, and culture. However to gain Gethen, Genly Ai must lose a life with those he loves. Though he will keep his youth, due to the stasis he is kept in during space travel, he will be physically older when he returns home, and have had many more experiences than those who will look his own age.
Additionally, Estraven must literally sacrifice his own life in order to see the unification of his planet. In order for Gethen to unite and join the Ekumen, Estraven risks his physical well being to rescue Genly Ai from prison and return him to his ship, so that Gethen can have a more peaceable future.