I never considered myself to be an ambitious person. I just wanted to have a job that I enjoyed, that paid enough to live on, and that was intellectually challenging.
When I started in environmental consulting, I was concerned mostly with learning as much as I could. What career path did I want to take? Technical expert? Management? I preferred the former, but I ended up doing far more of the latter.
I'm doing much better, financially, as a management type than a technical guru. And I've been tagged as someone who's "moving up in the world", with more responsibilities (and much bigger bonuses) than most of the people 15 years older than me. Not that I'm rolling in money, but my career path so far has convinced me that in the choice between more money/more stress (management) and less money/less stress (technical adviser), I'd much rather have what I wanted all along - a technical and not management focus.
Now, the only thing to do is extricate myself from all these projects I manage that are giving me heartburn...