Example: Consider the problem SHORTEST-PATH that finds a shortest path between two given vertices in an unweighted, undirected graph G = (V, E). An instance of SHORTEST-PATH consists of a particular graph and two vertices of that graph. A solution is a sequence of vertices in the graph, with perhaps an empty sequence denoting that no path exists. Thus the problem SHORTEST-PATH is a relation that associates each instance of a graph and two vertices with a solution (namely a shortest path in this case). Note that a given instance may have no solution, exactly one solution, or multiple solutions.
A decision problem PATH related to the SHORTEST-PATH problem above is : Given a graph G = (V, E), two vertices u, vV, and a non-negative integer k, does a path exist in G between u and v whose length is at most k ?
Note that the decision problem PATH is one way of casting the original optimization problem as a decision problem. We have done this by imposing a bound on the value to be optimized. This is a popular way of transforming an optimization problem into a decision problem.
If an optimization problem is easy then its related decision problem is easy as well. Similarly, if we can provide evidence that a decision problem is hard, we also provide evidence that its related optimization problem is hard.