Not too long ago I found myself at a child's birthday party with a number of other parents. I struck up a conversation with a dad who admitted that he was at the peak of his earning potential primarily as a result of scaling back his ambition. I heartily agreed with his decision and told him that I had made the same one awhile back, but that I preferred to think of it as a new type of ambition.
I no longer define "success" in the narrow terms of my career only. I now consider myself extremely ambitious in achieving a happy life. This includes a meaningful career, but also a rewarding marriage, intimate relationships with my children, and time to pursue other passions. Having defined "success" in such a concrete way allows me to more clearly evaluate where I spend my time. Pursuing a career that does not allow me the flexibility to achieve my new definition of "success" is no longer desirable regardless of pay, prestige, or title.
Thanks to Avi Spivack at work-it-dad for blogging about his struggle to let go of ambition and getting me to think about this today. I hear you Avi, and know what you're going through!