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The term “势” is a concept that originated from Sunzi’s Art of War, which refers to momentum, power, or potential. It is difficult to find an exact English translation for “势,” as it is a complex and dynamic term. Sunzi argued that understanding and utilizing the concept of “势” is crucial for achieving success in war.

According to Sunzi, “势” is constantly changing and can be gained or lost depending on various factors like terrain, weather, and morale. By understanding the state of “势,” commanders can make strategic decisions that lead to victory. As Junzheng Xue 薛居正(912-981) advised, One must not speculate on an unclear 势, while once a 势 is revealed, it cannot be stopped. This is embodied in the proverb “顺势而为,” which means adapting to the current situation and taking advantage of its momentum to achieve success. It emphasizes the importance of being observant, strategic, and nimble when making decisions.

In practical situations, the phrase could apply to various scenarios. For example, in the workplace, an employee may seize the moment by taking on new responsibilities or opportunities that arise. In personal relationships, one may go with the flow by adapting to changes in their partner’s behavior or communication style. In sports, a team can seize the moment by capitalizing on their opponent’s weaknesses and adapting their strategy accordingly.

Ultimately, “顺势而为” emphasizes the importance of being flexible, aware, and ready to take action when opportunities arise. By going with the flow and seizing the moment, individuals can position themselves for success and achieve their goals more effectively.

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